Start by defining Green. The journalist responded eco-friendly, kinder to the environment. We agreed that this was a good place to start. I explained that I personally don’t like to use these terms and prefer “Greener” or “More friendly”.
It would be better to avoid any such term and be precise with your claim or statement. I explained how most of the coffins we make and sell share very similar characteristics and all have a low impact on the environment, Carbon Footprint varies but a figure <50kg CO2e could be stated. A tiny number in comparison of our own Life time Carbon footprint. For example a average car (Audi A4 BMW 3 series) will emit more CO2 e on a 200 mile journey than the above.
How can I state this in terms of the environment? It is important to have a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) when considering such matter.
Life-cycle assessment is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. Wikipedia
What does the letter e after CO2 mean? This is to show that it is not literally CO2, but is used as a gathering unit. All greenhouse gases are considered in an assessment and the figure is expressed in CO2e
JC Atkinson completed an LCA study on the various types of coffins we sold in 2008 and again in 2019. The changes were minor in the data, but the analysis was of interest to ourselves for product development. As the coffins tested also included different interiors and handle options.
JC Atkinson further wanted to understand how our coffin behaved in the cremation process. As part of the 2019 review, we studied the cremation process in detail.
A Cremation is defined as the disposition of a body by burning Wikipedia
JC Atkinson always understood a coffin acts a secondary fuel. Many cremator operators have told us that a cremation with a wood coffin would use less gas at the end of the week than at the beginning. To consider this scientifically, we asked Giraffe Innovation to research and correctly quantify the LCA values for the different types of coffins we sell for cremation. I explained how variations existed in the results, which were related to many different factors such as the type of coffin, the sex and weight of the person, the day of week* and time of day (* due to the stored latent heat of the furnace brick lining being greater at the end of the day / week).
The journalist asked the cremation emissions including NOX, I stated how NOX is not an emission which is currently required to be monitored by Defra at present but the amounts were very small and most NOX came from the body not the coffin. Based upon a number of cremations on our Giraffe Innovation results and other global research worst case NOX output per cremation is 1.56kg, best case 0.8kg, the breakdown between the components is as follows, worst case. The coffin worst case was fitted with Cremfilm, plastic handles and taffeta lining, the removal of these components lowers the cremation emissions, including NOX.
1.56kg NOX is equivalent to driving a medium sized (Audi A4 or BMW series 3) diesel car 525 miles or a petrol car 2,557 miles (Defra 2019 carbon reporting).
With an average of 0.8kgNOX this would be equivalent to driving a medium sized (Audi A4 or BMW series 3) diesel car 270 miles or a petrol car 1,311 miles.
Best case includes the use of a solid wood coffin, wood handles and no plastic inside the coffin. The Gas emissions are also lower due to its contribution as a secondary fuel, the burning of the body in the cremation process.
What would I personally recommend?
I described how the coffin not only carried out a role in safely containing and presenting the deceased, but also could be chosen by a family for its looks or design; what it is made of; where it was made; how it was made and could it be personalised with names, poems, pictures or passions? I described how Oasis Willow supports a community in Bangladesh and how a wool coffin makes use of wool from local farms. Irish families like to have an “Irish coffin” design as they are often repatriated to Ireland for burial, given that burial is more popular than cremation there. I recalled the answer I gave in 2003 when Johnny Kennedy visited our factory to film his preparation for death. On our advice he had a solid pine coffin with a Baked Bean can , Whisky bottle and Cigar symbols routered on the coffin sides and lid. The Boy whose Skin Fell off became a BAFTA winning film and renowned documentary.
The journalist asked me how can you have a Greener funeral if it is not the coffin? I affirmed that it is the coffin as it’s also symbolic. A person who is caring for the environment may choose a hand-made Willow woven coffin because, in comparison to a traditional manufactured and polished coffin, it looks softer and more natural, desire satisfied on an emotional need but don’t be mistaken they haven’t saved the planet, the LCA CO2e numbers are very similar for all types.
Finally, we discussed the funeral and the funeral director’s role in guiding choices. An arranger’s role is just that – and could include correct knowledge about the environmental impact of the various funeral activities and it would do so with care to ensure green claims are correctly represented.
So for me what I would choose is our Brighton, a solid Pine Coffin with no plastic interior and wood handles.
Regards the funeral impact on the environment, consider the venues location and ask the mourners to share cars or use public transport.
Oh and defiantly leave the Diesel car at home!
Julian M Atkinson – JC Atkinson
As a Funeral Directors who strives to offer the very best quality products available, we chose to use Atkinson’s Reflections range when it comes to picture coffins. Incorporating personal memories of the deceased that Jamie and the Reflections team have designed specifically for that individual family.- Daniel from D.B.Devalls
Just to let you know how elegant the Walnut Tree Oval coffin looked this morning - it caught everyone's eye, plenty of comments and none of the pallbearers had seen one like it. It really did look smart. The book for the name details is beautiful, really impressive.- White Rose Modern Funerals
Just want to say a massive thank you to you & your team for this coffin, we along with the Humanist celebrant, crematorium staff, family and friends thought it was absolutely brilliant, on route to the crematorium there were people on the street taking photos of the coffin and EVERYONE had a big stupid smile on their faces.- McKenzie and Millar - Funeralcare
Everyone commented on how unusual the coffin was. Usually people are too scared to go up to the coffin at a funeral, but everyone went up to see and spent time looking at the photos that were displayed on the coffin. It made is so much easier to be close to dad- Diane (on behalf of Poetic Endings Funeral Directors)
Mum loved the outdoors and nature. She was very environmentally conscious. When we looked at your Eco friendly coffins we knew we’d be able to find something perfect for mum. It made such a sad time a little easier as we know she would have loved it.- Mr & Mrs Singleton
I loved the design on the picture coffin, it really captured my mother’s hobbies. She loved bowls, and to have the bowling green on was a wonderful way to say goodbye.- Janice Doherty
We wanted to say goodbye to our sister Helen, but in something that was more than just ‘a box’. The different choices that were available in all styles was fascinating. We chose a beautiful American-style Casket and also got a separate keepsake in her memory.- Carl & Becky Taylor