Shopping for an Eco-Friendly Casket

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Choosing a casket is a very personal decision, and you may feel overwhelmed by all the choices. One of the many factors to consider: Do you want a casket that’s gentler on the environment? Eco-friendly caskets, also known as green or biodegradable caskets, are available in a variety of materials and at a range of price points. 

How is a traditional casket not eco-friendly?

While traditional caskets are often made of wood, the wood used may not be harvested in a sustainable way. In addition, the wood may be treated and varnished with harsh chemicals, or the casket may be put together with glues that could be harmful to workers or to the environment. The casket may also contain metals and other materials that require a lot of energy to produce or ship. Some people still mistakenly believe that deceased people need to be “protected” from the earth, and they may opt for caskets made of 20 gauge steel, which are perhaps the least sustainable caskets of all.

What is a green casket?

A green casket is made of biodegradable materials or materials that can be produced without depleting non-renewable resources. These may include:

  • Sustainably harvested, unfinished wood
  • Hemp
  • Wool
  • Rattan
  • Banana leaf
  • Cardboard
  • Cork
  • Teak
  • Cotton
  • Willow
  • Seagrass

In addition to being made from natural materials, these caskets tend to be made without chemical finishes or metal solder or add-ons, allowing them to easily decompose in the earth. Because they are free of metals, most eco-friendly caskets can also be used for cremation, but check with the crematorium to ensure the casket you choose meets cremation criteria.

Where can I get a green casket?

Ask your funeral home if they offer any eco-friendly casket options. (If the funeral home is Green Burial Council certified, then they definitely will.) That said, most eco-friendly caskets are sourced online. You can purchase a casket from any retailer and your funeral home is required to use it, per Federal Trade Commission rules.

You can look for a casket certified by the Green Burial Council, which means that:

  • The casket does not contain any synthetic polymers, plastics, or acrylics
  • It’s made in a facility that does not release toxic by-products
  • The casket is constructed from plant-derived, recycled-plant derived, natural, animal, or unfired earthen materials
  • Between transportation of materials to manufacturer and end product to consumer, the transportation of all legs will not have exceeded 3,000 total miles.

However, just because a casket option does not have a Green Burial Council certification does not mean it’s not green. Talking with the seller can help you understand more about its origin.

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