The eco coffins that have everyone talking 306



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“Just bury me under the back tree in a cardboard box”. Ever heard this said by a loved one in jest? Well, now you can, and it doesn’t have to be an undignified sending off. Cardboard box coffins have recently taken off, and can be painted with all your family’s love and send your loved one off in a very personal way. And you can plant them in the backyard too. It might sound like a depressing topic but stay with us – it’s actually very beautiful.

Have you ever managed the funeral arrangements for a loved one and been through the process of selecting a casket, arranging a crematorium and choosing an urn?

This is a new way to celebrate the loss of a loved one (if it fits their personality, that is): the cardboard coffin you can decorate with family love, and the biodegradable urn that will grow into a tree! You don’t have to be a greenie to appreciate the sentiment here. Would you agree that in death it must be better to do something relevant and affordable than something glamorous and impersonal?

Plan for a funeral and it will become apparent that everyone “has” to have a casket and no one really wants to choose a basic one for a loved one, even if it is going to be burned, but perhaps no one knew there was another option that doesn’t look cheap or tacky. You want to lay someone you love to rest in comfort, if it is the last thing you can do for them.

It is at this time of life that we all get a bit sentimental, perhaps even a bit superstitious, seeing the selections we make as highly personal and demonstrative of who our loved one was in life. But the thing most people don’t tell you is that wooden coffins are very expensive and quite frankly boring to look at!

Another factor to consider is that a nice, elegant wooden casket can range in price from about $2,500 right up to and beyond $16,000. It doesn’t really make sense to spend so much especially if it is going to be cremated.

So when my mother-in-law saw these featured in a magazine recently she rang me. We both have a bit of a penchant for making life personal and she thought everyone should know about this new phenomenon in funerals – the eco-friendly heavyweight ‘cardboard coffin’, designed and constructed in a way that apparently minimises environmental impact but also allows you to make the coffin into a kind of family celebration as everyone can get into the act of decorating it. And what makes it even better is, as cardboard it seems incredibly logical as an item to burn in cremation, and quite reasonably priced. There seems to be several different brands available in the Australian market, all of which are made from 100 per cent recycled cardboard.

leaving lightly

I read a story about a family that bought one recently for a loved one, and on the day of the funeral, they made a ceremony or celebration of the more than 150 guests approaching the coffin and putting a handprint on it in paint. Don’t you think that’s a lovely touch?

And what’s more, this delightful way of sending someone off comes at a much cheaper price than a timber box. The prices are not published, but in the US these retail for approx $560. There is an elaborate number of options available, with photos overlaid and all sorts of other fancies, bringing prices up to over $2000, even then, it seems cheap. And it includes all the comforts of silk linings, cushions, elegant handles and other such fittings that you would expect for a loved one to go to peace in comfort.

Various providers also make cardboard coffins with a timber veneer, which effectively makes the coffin you buy look like the real, polished timber deal, but leaves you knowing it is a little more environmentally friendly.

The other thing that really inspired me was the biodegradable urn. Now I must admit to being a bit of an ashes-to-ashes person about death. I kind of expect I’ll be returned to the earth. For each of my children’s first birthdays I planted a tree in my garden to watch grow. I hope when I go, someone will plant a tree they can come and visit me at, and one day sit underneath. So when I saw this, I loved it. Imagine a little tree growing up from an urn full of a loved one’s ash and planting it in a favourite location of your family for all to come and visit. I suspect that could become a really special place for the right person.

So tell me, do these eco-friendly and inexpensive options for coffins and urns interest you? Would you choose one for a loved one? Would you want one for yourself?  

[Editor’s note: We don’t discuss death much here, so we’re sorry if it offends anyone because we’re the happy place to come! Our site is about getting the most out of life… and on those grounds we are covering this.]

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Makes a lot of sense

    1 REPLY
    • The thing is that with all good ideas there is always a catch! Cardboard coffins come with a hefty price tag.. Your still up for all the other legal cost requirements.. So in actual fact it’s Alot more expensive in the end (no pun intended!)

      1 REPLY
      • It doesn’t have to be, Christine. We cremated my father in a coffin just like this one, last year. With a framed photo, a beautiful arrangement of Australian native flowers, and his favourite Akubra hat resting on top, we created a farewell that honoured his down-to-earth nature, and his love of the Bush. We chose a small, local Funeral Director, and asked family and friends to speak, or recite poetry. Sprigs of fresh Rosemary, cut from my garden, were available for each of the 150 guests to place on the coffin as their final personal goodbye. Tea, coffee and biscuits were served in the reception room beside the Chapel. Dignified, unpretentious, and heartfelt. And it cost about 1/3 of the price quoted by one of the large ‘chain’ funeral operators.

  2. Love it, however I worry that in Australia anything named Ecco friendly carries a hefty price tag

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    • Yes…also they are only sold through funeral parlours, so you can imagine the markup!

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      • There was a chap in Ipswich Queensland that was selling flat pack coffins a few yeard ago we were going t o get two to store under the bed for when needed must now check and see if still available

  3. if it saved the family a lot of worry over the cost yes i would rather that than have them the worry of a hugh funeral debt so yes lets hope it starts here in nz

  4. Brilliant – I’ve been asking why don’t we have them for years. I’ll be very disappointed if I am sent off in anything else now.

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