Green Burial: An affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative death care option

Natural Burial Explained

What is a green burial or natural burial?

A natural burial, or green burial, focuses on an environmentally sustainable and organic way to conduct the disposition of a deceased body.  The deceased is not embalmed, and the body is interred into the ground, using only a biodegradable coffin or shroud.   The deceased is buried directly into the earth, without a concrete burial vault, or any metal parts on the coffin.

The aim is to allow the body to naturally decompose and return to the soil, as in the phrase so commonly used around death of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

Natural burialWhy opt for a natural burial?

Green funerals have been around for some time.  Indeed, what we know as a traditional American Funeral, was closer to being a natural burial in the mid-19th century, when undertakers built wooden coffins and interment was direct into the earth.

Some faiths practice only natural burial, such as Muslims and Jews, where beliefs mandate a natural, organic approach to death care.

Natural burial is experiencing something of a revival today.  It is gaining more attention in states where there is also a greater awareness, and undertaking, to be more sustainable and protect our planet and its resources.

The main reasons people consider a green burial are:

  • Simplicity
  • Cost
  • Conserving natural resources & natural areas
  • Eliminating the exposure to hazardous chemicals

Simplicity

Those who opt for a natural burial are often seeking a more simple and holistic approach to death care.  They want funeral arrangements that are simple, have minimal intervention on the body, and provide a lasting green impact on the planet.  There are options for the deceased to be buried with a seedling, allowing a tree to grow from the remains of someone who passed.  This does seem a wonderful legacy to re-oxygenate our planet and have a long-term memorial arboretum.

Cost

According to the NFDA 2018 Cremation & Burial report, a typical traditional funeral, including casket, embalming and burial vault costs $8,755, and this is without a cemetery plot fee.  Items such as embalming, a casket, a burial vault and a plot in a perpetuity in a designated cemetery, are all costly.

A natural burial works out much less expensive as none of these items are required.

Conserving natural resources & natural areas

Natural Conservation Burial SiteEvery year the U.S. buries 17,000 tons of steel and copper in vaults, 90,000 tons of steel in caskets, 30 million board feet of hardwood and 1.6 million tons of concrete.  A natural burial is not demanding on our resources as fewer resources are consumed.  Cremation, which has become more popular over the last decade, requires the resource of gas, so although sometimes considered more environmentally-friendly, it is still consuming a natural resource.

A green burial also helps to conserve our natural areas, and even create new natural forests and meadows.

Eliminating the exposure to hazardous chemicals

Formaldehyde which is used in embalming fluid is a hazardous chemical.  It is a known respiratory irritant and carcinogen.  Aside from embalming fluid absorbing into our planet as a body decomposes, it is not safe to expose funeral home workers and morticians to this hazardous substance on a routine basis.

Can a natural burial be affordable?

Yes, a green burial or natural burial, is significantly more affordable than a traditional funeral.  The need for the embalming process, an expensive casket, and a burial vault are all eliminated.

The costs for a simple cardboard container to hold the deceased, a simple pine coffin or a muslin shroud are way less than a steel or copper casket.

There are some natural burial sites that offer interment at very affordable prices.  It is fair to say that a simple, natural burial can cost between $500 – $1,500.

How do I choose a green burial site?

There are certain things you need to consider if you are seeking a green burial site.  Do you want a bespoke natural cemetery? Or a specially-designated ‘green’ section within a conventional cemetery.  This is what is known as a ‘hybrid’ green burial cemetery.  There are more conventional cemeteries that are adding green burial sections to cater for the demand for a natural burial.  Some of these cemeteries may still have plot fees that are considered more expensive than a conservation natural burial ground, as they still have costs associated with cemetery ground maintenance.

If you are interested in a ‘wild’ conservation area burial site, then you need to be more selective in which site you choose.

Click here for a list of all green burial cemeteries in the U.S.

What is there is no green burial cemetery locally?

You can consider making a burial in a cemetery greener by choosing not to have embalming performed, and using a biodegradable casket.  If the cemetery will allow it, you can choose not to use a concrete burial vault.

If the family owns rural land, you can consider a home burial.  Most states allow natural burial on private property.  Each county has its own zoning requirements, so you would need to apply for the correct permit.  Just bear in mind that unless you have established a protected family cemetery on the land, if the land-use should change, the remains could become inaccessible or disturbed.

Do I need a funeral director?  And, how do I choose a funeral company for a green burial?

In most states, you do not legally need to employ a funeral director.  It is just convention that we do.  There are 8 states that have legislation that stipulates only a funeral director can transport the deceased and obtain the necessary permits and death certificates.  If you have decided on a natural burial for a family member, in the 42 states where you do not legally have to use the services of a funeral director, you have the option to conduct a family-led funeral and transfer the deceased to the natural burial ground for interment.

Most funeral homes can assist you with a green burial option if this is what you choose.  There are also several funeral companies that are specialized in offering natural burial options.

How do I choose a receptacle for a natural burial?

Green Burial ContainerYou need to choose a biodegradable container.  This can range from a plain wooden coffin, reinforced cardboard container, wicker basket to a simple muslin shroud.  It is all about what is right for your loved one, and your family.  A wooden coffin is likely to cost more but is easier to safely transport.  Reinforced cardboard containers can be purchased at a low cost, and can be hand-decorated with messages by family and friends before being interred at a burial site.

Shrouds offer very limited support for transferring the deceased to a cemetery, but have the most minimal resistance as a biodegradable barrier.

What kind of memorial marker can be erected in a green burial cemetery?

This depends on the burial site.  If it is a hybrid green cemetery, you may be able to erect a conventional grave marker.  In conservation natural burial sites, the objective is to minimize the impact on the natural terrain.  Therefore, markers are typically only a simple natural rock or native plant.  Some green burial sites will offer some plaques that sit very flush with the ground.  Most natural burial sites with offer grave locations recorded by GPS, so that you have a permanent ‘marker’ of the gravesite location.

What does a natural burial cost?

The cost of a natural burial varies by region and what type burial site you opt for.  In general terms, a green burial for a body will range from $1,000 to $4,000.  Interment of cremated remains in a natural burial site is likely to cost between $200 and $1,000.

Although a natural burial can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of a traditional burial, some funeral home charges for a green burial can seem expensive.  A funeral home will use a simple pine casket, that they will likely mark-up.  You can purchase, or make, your own container, as the funeral home must accept any ‘appropriate’ container you provide. This can make a significant saving on the cost for the burial.

A natural burial is a very simplistic and humanist approach to death care.  Many families who opt for a natural burial feel strongly about being in control of the process, and the ritual, of death care.

Memorialization and Cremation Tribute Ideas

This section contains information, and guides, on how to memorialize a loved one following a cremation.  If you are tasked with the job of arranging a cremation memorial service, it can sometimes seem a daunting task and a great responsibility.  Here we cover everything you need to know about memorializing a loved one.  We cover:

  • Understanding what a memorial service entails and represents
  • How a memorial service differs to a funeral service
  • Planning of a personalized cremation memorial service
  • Creating memorial tributes with words, memorabilia, and artifacts
  • Setting up an online memorial page or website
  • The role of technology and memorial services
  • Deciding on the final disposition of the cremated remains
  • How direct cremation and a family memorial service can save thousands on funeral costs

Cremation Memorial Service

Memorialization Explained

A change in how we memorialize with cremation

Cremation offers much greater flexibility in how we can memorialize a loved one that has passed.  As there is no body present at a memorial service, there are many more options of how you can conduct a memorial service.  It does not need to be at a funeral home, and you do not need to hold the service immediately after the death has occurred.

This is leading to a change in how we view the whole funeral process.  The role of a funeral director is changing too.  The funeral home need to handle the disposition – the cremation – aspect of a funeral, but a family can then opt to host their own memorial service once they have the cremated remains returned.  The need to use the services of a funeral home for a memorial service is not necessarily required.  Families are choosing to use a place of worship, community centers, event venues, their own home or even outdoors.  Sometimes a family feels that they can do a better job of memorializing their lost loved one.  They can make it very personal and original.

So, what does a memorial service entail and represent?

A memorial service is a ceremony to remember a loved one that has died. It is considered a form of closure following a loss, and a chance to ‘pay last respects’ and say a final goodbye.  It represents a remembrance of a life lived and an opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of the person who has passed.

With the shift towards cremation as a death-care option, memorial services are now typically held after a cremation, and referred to as a Cremation Memorial.

A memorial service can take many different forms.  It can be very similar to a funeral service format, or it can be uniquely personalized, and held at a significant place that was meaningful to the departed.

How does a memorial service differ to a funeral service?

A funeral service is held with the body present in a casket.  A memorial service is held without the body present.  If a cremation has been performed, a memorial service can be held with the cremation urn present, but many memorial services are conducted with no remains at the ceremony.

Memorial services are sometimes more uplifting and less somber.  This can often be because they are not necessarily held immediately after the death, so family have had more time to come to terms with their grief, and feel a memorial service held later gives them more opportunity to make it a celebratory event to honor their lost loved one.

How to plan a personalized cremation memorial service

Cremation optionsIf you have been asked to organize a memorial service, it can be helpful to plan out how you anticipate a service should run.  As there will be no body present, a memorial service can be very flexible and at any venue.  If the cremation urn will be present, this can form a ‘center point’, similar to a casket at a funeral service.

You will need to decide on the location the service is to be held, who to invite, what format you wish the service to take, and what memorial tributes are required.  Such as a memory book, photos, prayer cards, music etc.  It can help a memorial service to run smoothly if there is some organization, and deciding who is going to manage the service and who is going to speak and deliver a eulogy or final words.

How to create memorial tributes with words, memorabilia, and artefacts

If you are arranging a memorial service, you may oversee organizing the memorial tributes for the ceremony.  This can be arranging flowers, photos, memory cards, candles, music, video and even food.  Memorial tributes were often managed by the funeral home for an additional fee, but if you are organizing a service without using a funeral home, you can either purchase tribute products or make your own.  Fortunately, with so many resources online these days, there are many companies that make and sell memorial tributes, and lots of ideas for how to make your own memorial products.

In MemoryHow to create a personalized cremation tribute

‘Personalization’ is something we embrace in everyday life today.  It is something that has become important to all of us.  And personalization of a memorial service can often be achieved so much better when the family are arranging and conducting it.  No more of those slip-ups when a funeral director mispronounces a name, or omits a key detail about the deceased.

You can make a cremation memorial personal in many ways, but generally stories about the deceased, photos from their life, memorabilia that attendees will associate with the deceased, and music that the deceased loved are all good tributes.

What is a Life Celebration tribute?

A life celebration is a type of memorial service that is more focused on celebrating the life of the deceased.  So, it is more uplifting and joyful, instead of a sad somber service.  Some families choose to employ the services of a funeral celebrant to lead the service.  A celebrant has been trained in how to memorialize a service with focus on the celebration of a life ‘well-lived’.

Funeral homes also offer customized life celebration services, or you can prepare your own life celebration tribute for a loved one.

How to set up an online memorial page or website

As many of us live our life’s and connect online these days, setting up an online memorial page or website, can be a great way to have a lasting tribute to a lost loved one, and enable friends and family far and wide to participate in creating a memorial tribute.

Arrange a cremation onlineSome funeral homes now offer online memorial pages to their client families.  These are sometimes free, but often if you pay a nominal fee for the online memorial page, it guarantees it will be hosted indefinitely.

Similarly, there are several companies that specialize in offering online memorial tributes and offer different packages depending on how long you wish it to be hosted and how much information and photos you wish to add.

Facebook offer a Memorial page option.  This can also allow a wider circle of friends from all over to engage, share and contribute to an online memorial.  Facebook will automatically convert the Facebook profile of someone that has deceased into a memorial page, with the words ‘remembering’ next to their name on the profile.

The role of technology in delivering a memorial service

Technology has changed the world as we know it, and this is also true of funerals.  Today funerals can be live-streamed to enable those not able to be present to watch the funeral in ‘real-time’.  With technology like FaceTime and Skype, it is possible to do this even if you are holding your own memorial service.

The use of photo-editing and video-editing software or PowerPoint presentations can all be useful tools to help you put together something that brings media into a memorial service.  A video or slideshow can prove a lasting tribute for family to keep as a tribute, share, and revisit as time goes by or on the anniversary of a death.

Do we need to hold a memorial service?

No, you do not need to hold a memorial service if it is not considered necessary, or perhaps a very elderly relative passed without many family or friends still alive to attend.  Deciding to hold a memorial service is just a personal choice.

Some people decide to just go ahead and scatter the cremated remains without any service or ceremony.  Conducting an ash-scattering can be regarded as a memorial act, even if no formal service, or specific tributes are arranged for the scattering.

What to do with the cremated remains after a cremation memorial service: The final disposition

Deciding what to do with cremated remains still poses a question for some families.  Often families end up keeping an urn at home as they are undecided what to do.  Cremation has removed the immediate need to buy a burial plot and inter the remains, although some families opt to purchase a cremation niche and have the cremated remains interred.

Cremation Memorial IdeasScattering the ashes is becoming a more popular option.  The cremated remains can be scattered in a bespoke Memorial Garden, or in nature somewhere.  For more information on how to scatter ashes, read our ash-scattering guide.  Do bear in mind that it is wise not to rush to scatter the ashes to quickly after the passing, as you may change your mind later.  Another thing to consider is keeping a small amount of the ashes in a keepsake urn, and scattering the rest.

Cremated remains can also be made into a number of memorial artifacts, including memorial diamonds, blown-glass, birdbaths, reef balls, paintings, vinyl records, shotgun shells or tattoos.

How direct cremation and a family memorial service can save thousands on funeral costs

Direct cremation is the simple, no-fuss, no service cremation option that is very affordable.  The funeral home handles everything to cremate the deceased, but then returns the cremated remains to the family.  A direct cremation can be arranged for under $1,000 in many areas. [The cost for a direct cremation varies by provider, state and city, but can be as low as $595 and as high as $3,000].  Visit our main DFS Memorials site to check the local prices near you.

Following a direct cremation, if family and friends arrange a memorial service themselves, this can reduce the overall costs for a funeral.  With a simple direct cremation and a family-led memorial service, a dignified funeral can easily be achieved for under $2,000.  In fact, it can be less if direct cremation is being offered at a low-cost in your area.

Family-led memorial services are becoming a new ‘norm’.  It is almost a return to family values of decades ago before the modern era of the funeral establishment.  And why should we pay thousands of dollars to a funeral business, when we can host a family and friends gathering at a fraction of the cost of a traditional funeral service?

Although holding a memorial service is not necessary after a cremation, it does provide opportunity for closure and a sense of being able to say a final goodbye to a lost loved one.  The unique thing about a memorial service is that there is no time-critical timeline about holding it.  You can hold a memorial service shortly after the death and cremation, or you can wait months, or even a year.

5 Funeral Trends that are changing death care traditions as we know them

The funeral industry is experiencing an era of change in the 21st century.  It is probably the most seismic change the death care business has experienced for over 2 centuries.  A once very traditional and stoic industry is being affected by shifts in consumer demand.

So, what funeral trends are happening?  And how are they affecting funeral homes and funeral consumers?

Funeral & Cremation Trends 2018#1  The demand for affordable cremation

Cremation has soared in popularity in the last 10 years, and in the last 3 years has moved to becoming the preferred option for the majority of Americans, with the cremation rate reaching 55% last year and set to reach 71% by 2030 according to Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

Although some families choose cremation with a funeral or memorial service, it is the demand for direct cremation as a simple, no-fuss and affordable funeral alternative that is making up the core of the cremation business.  Providers in the DFS Memorials Affordable Cremation Network report that up to 80% of cremation cases they handle are now direct cremation cases.

#2  An interest in eco-friendlier funeral alternatives

There appears to be a growing interest (especially in certain states) for eco-friendlier funeral options.  Many consider cremation eco-friendlier than a traditional burial with embalming fluids, concrete and steel being buried into the earth.  Some families that still opt for burial are considering natural burial, and even traditional cemeteries are adding hybrid green burial sections to their cemetery to cater to this demand.

#3  A break away from convention in rituals

Society is changing, and how we approach life rituals is part of that change.  There have been changes in our attitudes to how we approach births for some time now, with a greater interest in natural birthing processes.  Some families have moved away from a somber funeral ritual to choose a Life Celebration event instead, breaking the convention of a traditional funeral service.

#4  Personalization

Personalization has become quite the ‘buzz’ concept of culture today.  We all look for myriad ways to personalize our lives.  We personalize our daily lives and possessions to stamp our identity, so why not choose to host a funeral that exemplifies this quality of personalization?

This trend has meant that funeral homes are having to adapt to cater to personalized services.

#5  A return to the 19th century concept of family-led funerals

Back in the days an undertaker was largely just responsible for making a coffin and burying the deceased.  The family would prepare their loved one and lay them to rest in the parlor, holding a vigil at home to mourn their departed family member.  Eventually the business of undertaking extended to funeral parlors, and today funeral homes and funeral directors.

However, there is a trend affecting the funeral industry today, where more families are wishing to conduct a ‘DIY’ funeral for their loved one instead of just using a funeral home to conduct everything.

There are 10 states that DO require a family to employ a funeral director to conduct funeral services and handle a deceased’s body.  But that still leaves 40 states where a family can, if they so choose, opt to handle the funeral services themselves.  There are several organizations nationwide they support families who wish to conduct a family-led funeral.

These 5 trends are changing an industry that has been very traditional for many decades.  Some in the business recognize these changes and are adapting to meet the demand.  But for some in the industry, these trends are presenting them with challenges.

What do I do with the ashes after a direct cremation?

With more families turning to direct cremation as a simple and affordable cremation solution, we are finding that this question is arising more frequently.  “What shall we do with the cremation ashes?”.  In many cases, the family opted for a direct cremation as they had already decided against interment, and simply wanted to take care of the immediate disposition of their loved one in an inexpensive, ‘no-fuss’ manner.

Opting for a direct cremation does enable family to take care of the immediate need, and requests, to arrange a funeral.  But once the temporary urn is made available for collection, some folks just aren’t sure what the next steps are.

Having a direct cremation does not mean that you cannot memorialize in your own way, and in your own time!  What can you do to memorialize after a direct cremation?

Ash Scattering Memorial

ash scattering An ash scattering is proving a popular choice for families who feel an interment is unnecessary.  Either the deceased specified an ash scattering or families feel that this is a more befitting final rite.

You can choose to scatter all, or just some, of the cremated remains, and there all many options on where and how.  The options include scattering at sea or over water, scattering in a designated memorial garden, scattering from a plane or scattering just about anywhere that you feel is appropriate.  Families often ask about the legalities and permits required for scattering, and it has thus far been something of an ‘un-regulated’ act.  Certain state and public parks may require a permit, but in the main, there are no regulations, just a need to have a regard for other people and the environment.  Cremated remains are organic and sterile, so pose no threat to the environment, but it is important to be mindful of other people and how they feel about this as a final rite.

If scattering at sea EPA regulations do stipulate that a scattering should occur at least 3 nautical miles from the shoreline.  That being said, it is not uncommon for families to choose to do a beach scattering in the surf on a quiet spot of the coastline.

It is important to think and prepare for an ash scattering.  It is final, and there are right and wrong ways of scattering remains.  The wind direction plays a major part.  We all remember that Big Lebowski blow-back moment!  Ensure you, and your assembled party are all standing downwind.

Hold a Memorial Service

You can conduct your own memorial service.  This means you can hold your own service led and directed by the family.  Or you can enlist a person to conduct it for you – a celebrant, minister or friend of the family.  There are again many options in terms of where to conduct a memorial service.  You can hold it anywhere that you feel is appropriate, from at home, to a community center, church, outdoors or golf club!

Inter cremation remains

Of course, you can still choose to inter cremated remains, and more cemeteries are adding columbarium’s to their cemetery estate to accommodate the demand for cremation niches.  The cost to inter a cremation urn is generally cheaper than a body and casket, but there are some quite expensive niches out there as well!

Cemeteries will sometimes facilitate the opening and closing of an existing cemetery plot to add a cremation urn.  The fees for this differ by cemetery.

Create a cremation artifact memorial

Cremation has inspired a new generation of imagination in what we can do with cremation ashes creatively.   The possibilities are almost endless but listed below are some suggestions of artifacts that are made with cremation ashes:

  • Memorial reef
  • Diamond
  • Blown glass
  • Birdbath
  • Vinyl Record
  • Bullets
  • Tattoo

Share cremated remains and create family keepsakes

If you are unsure just what you want to do with the cremation ashes, you can always opt for sharing between family members with keepsake urns. These are generally a set of small urns and come in various designs and selection of quantity.

Cremation Urns

If you are in need of a simple, low-cost direct cremation, DFS Memorials has a network of affordable cremation providers nationwide.  Select your state and city to find your nearest provider.

Natural Death Care: the ‘do-it-yourself’ alternative

Have you ever thought about caring for your deceased family member yourself?  Washing him or her, preparing he or she for burial (or cremation), building your own wooden coffin, transporting them to their final resting place and conducting your own funeral service.   Sounds a little extraordinary doesn’t it?  Yet it is not that long ago since that was how it was done.  Most people died at home and the family cared for them, perhaps enlisting the services of their minister and an undertaker/cabinet maker.

However, home funeral care is gaining more popularity, as there is a cultural shift towards reclaiming these rituals for the family.  We are witnessing a revival in the home funeral, or family-directed funeral, as culturally and financially Americans are seeking other alternatives for a funeral.  Natural death care seems like the other paradigm to natural childbirth, bringing the rituals of entering and leaving our lives back towards a more holistic approach.

Conducting your own funeral offers some more simplistic, personal and natural methods of disposition.  Whether you are seeking a completely organic, ecologically- friendly earth burial, or a simple cremation, arranging to do-it-yourself gives you complete autonomy over the death care ritual.

How does a green burial save money?

An average funeral in the US today costs around $7,775 (according the NFDA 2012), yet much of this cost is spent on professional fees and elaborate merchandise, and it does not include any cemetery fees.  A simple natural burial in a green cemetery is likely to cost a family something in the region of $1,000, especially if the family direct their own preparation of the deceased and opt for a basic wooden coffin.

There are a number of ‘green’ natural cemeteries across the US where you can bury your dead in a green reserve where they are naturally returned to nature.  Many of these sites even operate as non-profit organizations where a donation is requested in lieu of a burial plot.

The $1,000 Family Farewell

Yes, you can probably do-it-yourself for the cost of $1,000, an inexpensive family send-off.  Many green burial sites charge a basic fee and around $500 should get you a single burial plot.  If the family undertakes all the funeral preparation themselves, then a simple but dignified burial can be achieved for $1,000 in many areas of the US.

A basic cremation is the other alternative that can facilitate a simple low cost family funeral.  A direct cremation can be obtained in most metro areas in the US now for $500 – $800.  Cremation has long been a disposition method in many faiths and cultures, and considered by some to be a more ‘natural and spiritual way to dispose of our earthly body.  In this way cremation can facilitate a natural DIY option for the family.  Once the family has the cremated remains, a private family memorial service can be held.

Resources for Family-directed funerals:

Home Funeral Directory  – http://homefuneraldirectory.com/

National Home Funeral Alliance – http://homefuneralalliance.org/

Natural Burial Co-operative – http://naturalburial.coop/USA/

DFS Memorials – Locate your nearest low cost cremation provider

What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?

Both a funeral service and a memorial service serve to give us opportunity to ritualistically say goodbye to a departed loved one.  Funerals are often regarded as practices for the living, and part of the process of grieving.  The distinction between a funeral service and a memorial service is largely the presence of the deceased’s body at the service and the time-frame in which the service is organized.

A funeral service generally takes place within a week or so of a death occurring, and the casket (and deceased) are usually present during the service, whether it be an open or closed casket service.  This can be a funeral service followed by a traditional burial or a funeral service followed by a cremation.

A memorial service often takes place some time after the death has occurred.  It can replace the funeral service, or it can be an additional service providing opportunity for a wider circle of people to participate in the memorialization.  With the rise in cremations, some families are opting to have a memorial service instead of having a funeral service.  This way the family arranges for an immediate cremation and then arranges a memorial service once the cremated remains are returned to the family.

The benefit of opting for a memorial service is that firstly it alleviates the pressure of having to organize a service in the immediate days following a death.  Allowing grieving to take place without frantically making arrangements.  All that needs to be organized is the collection and cremation of the deceased.  Many funeral homes will offer the opportunity to have a private family viewing where you can have the chance to say a formal ‘goodbye’ to your loved one before the cremation takes place.  The cremated remains will be made available for the family to collect, or can be delivered to the family.

Another benefit of a memorial service is the reduced cost.  If you arrange and undertake your own memorial service, not only is it truly personalized, it eliminates the need to pay other people for this service.  Whether you are choosing to inter or scatter the ashes, you can arrange to do so at a time and place that suits your family.

The funeral industry is resisting this shift to cremation and memorial service, largely because it reduces their revenue and profits.  They like to try and tell us that we need to have a service in order to process our grief.  Whilst I do agree that a ritual may be an important aspect of psychologically managing our bereavement, I do not think that the funeral industry have to be intrinsic to this process.  I believe that we as family can often arrange a memorial service that better reflects our lost loved one’s life, without any assistance from professional services.

At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you and your lost loved one.  What kind of service you decide upon has to be the right way to memorialize and pay tribute to the person you have lost.

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‘Good Funeral Awards’ celebrate innovation in the UK Funeral Industry

The British have something of a reputation for a degree of ‘quirkiness’, and this seems no different in their approach to the death care industry.  The UK has recently held an event to celebrate the innovation emerging in the ‘alternative’ sector of the funeral industry.  This was staged in recognition of the changing trends in green funerals, life celebrations, new online memorial technologies and the more weird and wacky offerings that people can choose for their final send-off.

The Joy of Death Festival was staged in Bournemouth on the September 7 – 9th 2012 and attended by good funeral folks from all over the United Kingdom.  The strap line for the event “A weekend for the Living!”

The event was not only an opportunity for many funeral professionals to share practice on some of the new innovations within their industry, it was planned to help celebrate all the good funeral work undertaken by many across the U.K.  It was hoped it would dispel the recent bad publicity coverage of the funeral industry after the Channel 4 Dispatches ‘Undercover Undertaker’.  A program that conducted a scathing expose on the behind-the-scenes happenings at the largest corporate funeral chain in the UK – Cooperative Funeralcare.

The first UK Funeral Awards took place on the Friday and were based on 149 nominations from within the industry and from the general public.  The categories of the Good Funeral Awards were:

  • Most Promising New Funeral Director
  • Embalmer of the Year
  • The Eternal Slumber Award for Coffin Supplier of the Year
  • Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death in the Media
  • Crematorium Attendant of the Year
  • Best Internet Bereavement Resource
  • The Blossom d’Amour Award For Funeral Floristry
  • Funeral Celebrant of the Year
  • Cemetery of the Year
  • Gravedigger of the Year
  • Funeral Director of the Year
  • Best Alternative to a Hearse
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Book of the Year

These categories provided the opportunity to highlight the trades and skills from across the funeral sector, and winners and runners-up with invited to speak about their business.  This was a very different event to the standard Funeral Directors Association Conventions, and hopefully we may see something like this take off in the U.S.

The death care industry in the U.S. is undergoing some significant shifts right now, with the cremation rate rising, and many looking towards a ‘life celebration’ as opposed to the traditional somber event.  Some states are responding more progressively than others, especially where the cremation rate is already higher, such as California, Florida, and Maine, and where there is a greater interest in greener alternatives to the traditional burial.

This is a time of change right now.  The way people think about funerals is changing, the use of technology is starting to firmly seat itself into the funeral planning, memorialization and even funeral service aspects of a funeral.  The cost of a funeral is being questioned and interrogated now more than ever as people struggle with the idea, or the finances, of spending thousands of dollars on the death care process.  DIY funerals are becoming a new ‘norm’ and are moving from the slipstream to the mainstream.  Families are questioning why they should give so much money to ‘professionals’ to manage their death care.

In the U.K. the cremation rate is at around 80%, and families can generally attend directly at the crematory for a private committal.  DIY funerals and direct cremation has already started to storm the U.K., as the British demand simplicity and affordability in their death care.  What is happening over the pond is beginning to sweep across America as the price-war for affordable funerals takes off.