Would you consider an eco-funeral?

Pictures: Wendy Aiken

Pictures: Wendy Aiken - Credit: Archant

A funeral director with offices in Suffolk and Norfolk is leading the way in delivering environmentally-friendly funerals.

Simon Beckett-Allen leads a funeral procession

Simon Beckett-Allen leads a funeral procession - Credit: Archant

People are becoming more environmentally aware; most recycle, many make buying decisions based on what products they feel are sustainable and a growing number are trying to cut single-use plastics from their daily lives.

But when it comes to the end of their life - the funeral - very few make plans to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible.

One company trying to change this is Rosedale Funeral Home - a successful funeral director business with six offices in north Suffolk and south Norfolk in locations including Beccles, Diss, Halesworth and Wymondham.

An independent, family business, Rosedale is a founder member of the Association of Green Funeral Directors, an organisation formed in 2009 to encourage funeral directors to become more green-minded in all aspects of their work and to help bring natural funerals into the mainstream. The company was also short-listed in the Environment and Sustainability category of this year’s Suffolk Business Awards, which took place in June.

Rosedale's wheeled bier

Rosedale's wheeled bier - Credit: Archant

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Growing demand

Business owners Simon and Anne Beckett-Allen say although numbers remain small - around 2 to 3% of the funerals they oversee - a growing number of families are making enquiries about environmentally friendly options. This can mean many things including using local suppliers and coffins made with wood from sustainable sources that have the FSC certification.

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The company is also able to offer a range of coffins that are kinder to the environment than traditional options, including boxes made from cardboard, bamboo and willow.

Rosedale is a founder member of the Association of Green Funeral Directors

Rosedale is a founder member of the Association of Green Funeral Directors - Credit: Archant

They can provide burial - which is responsible for far less greenhouse gas emissions than cremation - at a natural woodland site in Colney near Norwich and even a wheeled bier in place of a hearse. Their latest initiative has seen the company partner with a local florist to offer locally-grown flowers free of plastic packaging and wreaths secured with biodegradable cardboard moss and recyclable copper.

For Anne, the focus on eco-funerals comes down to consumer choice.

She said; “There are more and more people who care about the environment and through their life try and make the right consumer choices. It’s a real shame if people who have composted their tea bags all their life do not to have the option of an environmentally friendly funeral - in a way it’s an insult to their values.”

Carbon neutral funeral

Anne has been instrumental in enabling Rosedale to become what she says is the first funeral director in the country to offer a carbon neutral funeral, where a family can offset the carbon footprint of the ceremony. Carbon elements are calculated and offset via PURE, a charity that provides funding to communities in the UK and the developing world to install renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures.

Mourners also have the option to offset their carbon footprint created by travelling to the funeral venue.

Simon says the company is always looking to improve its eco-funeral offerings and has been researching more environmentally-friendly options for keeping bodies refrigerated and biodegradable materials for lining the coffin. Plastic bottles of water for mourners have been replaced with refillable glass bottles and he has even dug a grave by hand for one customer who had requested that a mechanical digger not be used.

So, why, with all these options available to an increasingly aware public, aren’t more people opting for a green funeral?

Simon says it comes down to people not making their wishes known and the perception that funerals should be traditional.

“You can talk to people about all the environmentally friendly options we offer and they think it is a lovely idea and something they would like - but they don’t tell anyone in their family,” he said.

“And after they have passed away, the family have too many other things on their mind and they opt for a traditional funeral. If people wrote down their wishes, it would make it easier for their loved ones. It doesn’t have to be done in a formal way - an A4 sheet tucked in the drawer with their other documents or some information included in a will is all it needs.”

He added: “Funerals are also very traditional and slow to change - it wasn’t until after Princess Diana died that people started to have different types of music played at their funeral, but we are moving in the right direction.”

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