Eco Funerals in New Zealand
Our own funeral marks the end of our call on the earth’s resources and, just as in life, involves some choices which can impact, to a greater or lesser degree, on the environment. These choices include whether to embalm, the type of casket to use, and burial or cremation.
Many people today are becoming aware of how they impact on the environment; this has led to more people wanting to make considered choices when they die. Some may choose to have a ‘Natural Burial’ in the purest sense of the word, others want to personalise their funerals and yet still consider the environment.
We hope this section will explain options available to you and give you information that will ensure your choices are well informed. We hope that you will then be able to make your decisions while considering the impact on the environment.
The burial process uses a plot of land which may be of varying sizes. To minimize the amount of land used, all cemeteries will allow you to bury 2 people into the same plot, in some cemeteries you will be allowed to bury 3 people in the same plot. This occurs by burying the first person at the deepest depth, the second burial is middle depth, and the third person will be placed on top.
Graves are labelled by temporary grave markers and are prescribed by council bylaws; these will normally be placed on the grave until a more permanent monument is organised. The permanent monument is also prescribed by local authority bylaws which generally state that they are to be made of Granite, Marble or Bronze.
If you wish to be buried, you should consider how you can lessen the impact of this piece of land on the environment. This may be to have a double or triple depth plot, or a natural burial plot if it is available in your area.
The cremation process requires combustion provided by an electric arc over natural gas. Fans are used to ensure that oxygen is fed into the unit at the correct rate to ensure efficient burning takes place. The process takes approximately 3 hours and only one person is cremated at a time. As each cremation is completed, heat is retained in the bricks of the cremator. Therefore, the more cremations that take place in a day, the more efficient the cremator becomes.
Modern crematoriums and cremators use better technology than their predecessors. The cremator technology of a modern crematorium ensures all exhaust gasses are re-ignited to ensure that the discharges to the atmosphere are kept to a minimum. You may wish to check that the crematorium that you are using is not one which emits smoke on combustion. This is a clear sign that it is using old technology. Crematoriums should operate with no odour, no smoke, and no noise emitted to the environment around it.
All embalming chemicals are completely destroyed by the cremation process. No plastics are cremated so pollutant emissions are kept to a minimum, whether you choose an eco-friendly funeral option or not. The modern cremator is cleaner burning than most wood burners operating in domestic homes.
Cremation does use scarce energy resources (natural gas) and contributes to the production of greenhouse gases. However modern, properly operated crematoria do minimize this impact.
Ashes will be returned to you in an urn; most urns are made of natural pine plywood or plastic. You may however request that the ashes be returned in a Radiata Pine Urn or a cardboard box wrapped in recycled paper.
Other urns are available, these are made of metal, resin products, customwood with vinyl veneer, or solid wood.