Green funeral options on the rise

Eco-conscious testators who want to take advantage of some of the techniques favoured by the developing green burial sector should include their funeral wishes as part of their estate plan. 

Traditional casket burial is no longer the default choice for younger generations of Canadians put off by the price tag, as well as the more practical problem of a lack of space in cemeteries across the country.

Still others are deterred by the environmentally unfriendliness of a process that relies on damaging chemicals, concrete grave linings and other non-degradable materials.

Cremation has solved some of those issues, but remains a fossil-fuel intensive procedure. And as the Ottawa Citizen reports, a growing number of options are now available to environmentally aware Ontarians who want to limit their carbon footprint as much in death as they do in life.

In recent years, a number of municipal cemeteries in Ontario have devoted sections of their land to “green” or “natural” burials. To encourage decomposition, bodies are buried in shallower graves, protected by biodegradable containers, while a central memorial plaque is often used in place of individual burial plots.

According to the Citizen, the provincial government launched a consultation paper on burial alternatives, and recently approved a process known as alkaline hydrolysis or “liquid cremation,” a low-energy method of reducing the body to powdered bones using a combination of water and potassium hydroxide.   

The newspaper reports that the province is also looking at the possibility of regulating “human composting,” a procedure that is already allowed in Washington State, where a pioneering company called Recompose counts Margaret Atwood among its investors.  

In the wills and estates business, it’s always a challenge to get people started with a process that forces them to contemplate their own death. And there are few things more confronting when it comes to mortality than planning your own funeral – conventional or not. 

But whatever your preferences, your loved ones will thank you for giving them a clear set of instructions. For the estate trustee in particular – often a close family member or trusted friend – funeral arrangements are one of the first things they will have to take care of after your passing, and their job will be much easier if you’ve taken some steps in that direction. 

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