Being green brings with it challenging choices in our everyday lives – whether it's choosing environmentally friendly detergent, toilet paper, or efficient light bulbs.
Now people are starting to make eco-friendly choices in death, too. Jessica Sutton reports.
From the casket to catering, people are choosing to make greener choices even concerning the after-life.
They are becoming more aware of the impact they, and the products they use, are having on the environment, and it is prompting many to consider what damage their death wishes may have on future generations.
Businesses are being set up in New Zealand specifically to cater for eco-friendly funerals, and Manawatu is no exception, with funeral homes now offering "greener options" and coffin makers in Pahiatua creating eco-friendly designs.
It may seem ghoulish to some, but people are even looking at what fluids they want to be embalmed with, the type of casket used, how they are buried or cremated, who caters the food and where the flowers come from are just some of the many green decisions now available.
Palmerston North's Lychway Funeral Home is one of the many companies taking up the greener options.
Director Ben McCreedy says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people wanting to do their bit for the environment when they die.
"A green funeral doesn't have to be a full green ordeal, it can be just a green option like an eco-casket or not printing out the service sheets or having organic catering," he says.
"It's something we see a need for in our community and we're seeing more and more of it. People are much more aware of their carbon footprint."
He says the home would undertake about two "fully blown green" funerals a year.
"It's not often that we're seeing families coming in to say it has to be 100 per cent fully blown green. There's been a dramatic change in the last few years.
"It is [a green choice] happening significantly more than it did five or 10 years ago, and it's people wanting to do their bit and it's the next generation they are conscious of."
It was only 10 years ago that a funeral was just a funeral, McCreedy says.
"Now probably half of the families we care for are going to have some sort of element of a greener funeral to their arrangement. It may be just one small element but it all adds up towards quite a big movement. No funeral is the same now. We conduct about 150 funerals a year, and about 70 or 80 of those are probably having some greener thought."
The difference in whether you have an eco-friendly funeral or a standard service comes down to how long a person wants to be preserved for, and how passionate they are about the environment.
The environmentally friendly options at funeral homes nowadays include non-toxic biodegradable embalming fluid, eco-caskets, organic clothing and makeup, locally grown flowers – not using fossil fuel to be transported from overseas, no service sheets and organic catering.
Retired Palmerston North chaplain and former All Black Neven MacEwen wants to do his "little bit" for the environment by being buried in an eco-friendly casket.
For the past two years, the 78-year-old has been planning his funeral.
"Death is inevitable," he says.
"It's important to get people to talk about it and make the choices of what they want. There are many options available now that were not in traditional funerals. I want to do my little bit for the next generation."
MacEwen says it is an easy and small decision to make, but something that can really make a difference in a few years' time.
"We leave an impact on those we leave behind and what you choose to have [at your funeral] will have an impact on future generations. Things have changed considerably. We don't have to go way out there [to be green], we can do our little bit in a very practical way."
Beauchamp and William Cotton & Sons funeral homes also offer green options.
Emily Beauchamp, of Beauchamp Funeral Home in Palmerston North and Feilding, says about half of its clients opt for eco-friendly items.
"It's mostly eco-caskets that people are wanting, but the price is quite high for eco stuff, which turns people off a bit," she says.
"A lot of people are voicing their want for eco-friendly things, which is different from how it used to be when people didn't really know these options were available."
Jeanette Cotton, of William Cotton & Sons, says demand for green items is small, but the business does stock environmentally friendly options.
She says its eco-caskets have not been "overly popular".
The standard burial and cremation are considered eco-friendly, but the greenest way is a natural burial.
A natural burial – a back-to-nature-option – is where the deceased is wrapped in a shroud or eco-casket and placed in a shallow grave (about one foot deep) in the ground. After burial, the site is marked only with a biodegradable memorial like a wooden cross, and trees and shrubs are planted on top of the body.
However, due to regulations around how and where a person can be buried, natural burials cannot occur just anywhere. The closest natural burial site to Manawatu is at Makara Cemetery in Wellington. This site has been open since June 2008 and is one of two natural burial sites in the country.
Palmerston North City Council has considered a natural burial site for the past 20 years, and two years ago, it agreed to put the project in its long-term plan. However, in the council's draft 10-year plan – released in April – the burial site has been been dropped off the list of proposed items.
McCreedy says a natural burial site would be popular with Manawatu, Horowhenua, Tararua and Rangitikei people.
"I think if there was a place available to the community [for natural burial] it would be utilised much, much more and at the moment the closest is Wellington and that puts a lot of people off. The carbon footprint of six or seven cars all driving down to Makara Cemetery probably doesn't warrant it. I think it does have a place in the community and I think we would see a higher demand for it."
He says about 70 per of Lychway's clients are cremated as it is cheaper and carbon emissions are nominal.
Whether the concept of greener funerals is here to stay is yet to be unearthed.
McCreedy believes there is a demand for greener options and "I think that's set to continue".
"I don't think it's a fly-by-night idea."
"I don't think it will be a fad. People are starting to become more aware of what they can do to help and I don't think that will change."
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