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A steadily growing number of people are asking to remain “forever green” with requests for natural coffins and burials becoming more noticeable, especially among people planning funerals in advance, according to Kaye Shannon, manager of Sibuns Funeral Directors in Central Auckland..
A New Zealand research project earlier this year showed that 13% of people definitely wanted an eco burial, 18% said they would probably choose a natural burial and 22% were interested.
“Worldwide, funeral directors’ associations say they expect a lot more interest in eco funerals in the next couple of years, with some suggesting eco burials will become as popular as cremation,” Kaye says. “This shows how quickly the eco trend is growing, when you realise that five years ago, we had no requests at all for this service.”
However, people needed to be aware than an eco funeral did not mean economy.
“Choosing eco options can cost a bit more. For example, the caskets usually have to be handmade, because they are not supposed to contain any screws or solvent-based glue, and they can’t be made out of MDF or contain plastics,” he said.
“Some are more environmentally friendly than others. However cardboard coffins are not regarded as environmentally friendly because they are imported and can not be used in cremators,” he said.
The most popular eco caskets used in New Zealand include the Return to Sender rounded coffin, along with New Zealand made solid radiata pine and macrocapa caskets with wooden or hemp rope handles. They come with unbleached calico liners and wool mattresses.
A new range of natural embalming products is also available through Sibuns Funeral Directors to help overcome a growing reluctance by some people to consider embalming because of environmental concerns.
The environmentally safe, non-toxic embalming fluids naturally rehydrate the body, providing a more natural appearance. The fluids do not contain formaldehyde but initial trials show they provide the necessary sanitisation necessary for preserving the body for a short time until the funeral is held.
“It’s great to have this as another option in our eco-friendly funeral choices,” Kaye says. Other eco-friendly options include flowers, service sheets and use of cars and hearses.
“We can tailor the entire funeral arrangements to ensure flowers, printed material and other details are as environmentally friendly as possible. For example, flowers should not be held in synthetic foam bases or contain too much wire,” she says.
As a member of the FDANZ professional body, Sibuns offer the FDANZ Funeral Trust bereavement plan which allows for payment by easy instalments of $20 a fortnight, or lump sum payments, which are exempt from asset testing for long-term residential care.