The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Oh dear, oh dear oh dear

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

 

It was only a matter of time.

The GFG has been the go to information resource for anyone needing to find out about the intricacies of organising a funeral for years and years, in fact, we’re amazed it’s taken this long for someone to hitch on to our coat tails.

The winner of the prize for trying to look like us is a certain Mark Brown – of FuneralGuide.co.uk. Go on, click on the link, we’re sure he’s counting visitors to his website. He’s probably very well meaning, but the relentless emphasis on urging readers to take out a pre-paid funeral plan doesn’t sit terribly well with us. We’re not sure why he would do this. Nor does the rather cheeky purloining of a website name that is remarkably similar to ours.

Funeral Guide offers FREE help with funeral planning and lots of badly written and not very accurate or helpful advice. We’ve signed up for his ‘Beat the Funeral Price Hike’ free download just to see what he suggests for us. It apparently contains all the information you need to make an informed decision about planning ahead. But we really couldn’t be bothered to go to his ‘fast quote form’.

Helpfully, Mark has been e-mailing funeral directors on our Recommended by the GFG list asking if they’d be interested in linking to his site and kindly offering to promote anything of theirs on his social media and with his audience. Perhaps we’ll send him a link to this blog. In the meantime, if you hear from him, be assured, he’s nothing to do with us.

In Memory of Jon Underwood

Thursday, 29 June 2017

We were devastated to learn that Jon Underwood, the founder of the Death Cafe movement, died on Tuesday.

Jon wholeheartedly believed that engaging with death is both important and overlooked so made it his mission to encourage society to embrace death as part of life.  His life’s work was the Death Cafe movement, which began in Jon’s front room in Hackney in 2011 as a gathering of people talking about death over tea and cake.  The impact of Death Cafe has been huge – as of 28th June 2017, there have been nearly 5000 Death Cafes in over 50 countries.

Jon also painstakingly built and managed Funeral Advisor in association with the Natural Death Centre Charity and ran Impermanence – his commitment to doing good in the world by encouraging society to deal with death in interesting and innovative ways.

He was a source of invaluable advice, support and encouragement to others in the fields of death and dying, always generous with himself and his resources.  He was one of the good guys – the most genuine, well intentioned, humble, kind hearted and gentle person, both professionally and personally.  His absence will be deeply felt by everyone in our community and beyond.

Our thoughts are with his family right now.

Jon’s commitment to Death Cafe was unrivalled, and came at a cost.  Since 2011, Jon funded his Death Cafe work entirely through his own personal savings and small freelance projects and had recently begun trying to fundraise very actively so he could pay his bills.  We’d love to support Jon’s young children – Frank and Gina –  and have set up a JustGiving page in his memory.  Please donate generously.

Please watch this touching tribute to Jon which includes music by his daughter Gina.

Jon Underwood and his mum, Sue Barksy Reid, who was instrumental in developing the Death Cafe model 

 
 
“I met Jon when he was at the beginning of his Death Cafe journey and his quiet determination to create a subtle social change in our attitudes to death was something I had never encountered before. It truly became his vocation, second only to his devotion to his children who were just babies then.
 
We also worked together setting up Funeral Advisor when I was a trustee of the Natural Death Centre, and he handed over the database of UK funeral directors that he had spent so many hours compiling for me to update and complete before the website was launched. It was a real labour of love and continued to be right until his death.  Unlike other predatory funeral comparison websites, Funeral Advisor was wholly not for profit and must have consumed many hours of Jon’s time looking after it.
 
Over the years our paths crossed occasionally, we co-hosted a Death Cafe at the Festival Hall once, and bumped into each other at various events. He never changed, he was always a gentle, calm and warm presence in any gathering, and a man who truly lived his truth, his beliefs informing his living and his consciousness of the impermanence of life was a fundamental guidance for his work, to which he was dedicated.
 

He will be greatly missed but never forgotten, a quiet, inspirational revolutionary whose legacy is a better society. The Death Cafe movement has lost its founder, but his influence will continue spreading, like ripples on a pond.”

Fran Hall, CEO, The Good Funeral Guide

Anna Lyons, Jon Underwood and Louise Winter at Jon’s house in Hackney during Life. Death. Whatever. in October 2016. This photo was taken by his son Frank.
 
“I first came across Jon when he was involved in an event at the National Gallery called Death & the Masters.  He was talking about the gallery’s paintings and hosting a Death Cafe.  I wanted to attend but was broke and couldn’t afford the £50 entrance fee.  The National Gallery weren’t interested in helping but Jon found out and paid for me using his hosting fee with an insistence that I attend, even though I was a total stranger to him at the time.  It was at that point that I came to understand the sort of person Jon was – generous, thoughtful and extremely special.
 
He’s been a mentor, an inspiration and a friend to me over the last few years.  His dedication to his work has been unrivalled.  He was a mix of quiet determination, loving kindness, extreme modesty and belief in the importance of the work he was doing.  His commitment to making the world a better place through Death Cafe was unwavering.

The last time I saw Jon was when he was helping at Life. Death. Whatever. which was just around the corner from his house in Hackney, the home of Death Cafe.  He offered his unconditional support in the form of informative talks, a Death Cafe, reassuring emails and many smiles, hugs and cups of tea.”

Louise Winter, Editor, The Good Funeral Guide

 

 

“I didn’t know Jon all that well. A man of still waters and deep spirituality, he was a of different order of human being from me. Which was why I liked being around him. People like Jon conduct good energy. I also enjoyed his twinkle. Only Jon could have teamed mortality-awareness with cake. 

 
I first ‘met’ Jon when he read a blog post on the GFG about Bernard Crettaz, the intellectual progenitor of death cafe. He emailed. It was clear that the idea had gone deep. When he’d thought some more we agreed to meet in Oxford. He said he’d been to college in Oxford. A sixth form college perhaps, I thought. Maybe an FE college. We walked about a bit with the tourists and found ourselves in ancient place of honey-coloured stone and thousand-year-old lawns. ‘This is where I went to college,’ he said. So he was an Oxford man! How typical of him to underplay that. We drank coffee and he outlined his plans for death cafe. I considered what he said and replied carefully. I couldn’t see it taking off. The rest is legacy.”
 
Charles Cowling, Founder, The Good Funeral Guide
 

Please leave your tributes to Jon in the comments below.

 

Buyer Beware

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

There’s a new pup in town.

It is with a heavy sigh that we bring news of yet another swimmer in the crowded waters of funeral plan providers, complete with grandiose claims, dubious mathematics and an apparent complete and wilful ignorance of the real costs involved in providing a funeral of the type they are offering.

Prosperous Life Limited has recently entered the unregulated funeral plan provider market, and is actively touting its wares to funeral directors and the vulnerable public alike.

The sole director of the company, a Mr Edward Gerald Smethurst, has a broad and varied experience in life, with positions as a director or secretary of 49 companies over the last 16 years  None of these have anything to do with funerals other than this, his latest appointment in a company incorporated on January 23rd 2017.

Now we’re sure that Mr Smethurst is a very nice man who knows a great deal about window fitting, alarm systems, bathrooms and bedrooms, helicopter charter and conservatories, but we’re not sure that he’s the man to entrust with your savings when it comes to paying for your funeral.

It’s the maths that bother us.

The ‘Prosperous Silver’ plan will cost you £2,400. ‘Prosperous Gold’ is £2,600 and ‘Prosperous Platinum’ £2,800. The chart below shows what you get for those figures. And how much is set aside for paying the cremation fee, the minister and the doctors (£1,000 in total for all three. Not enough by a long chalk, with  minister fees around £180, doctors’ fees £164.00 and some crematoria charging £999 for the cremation,)

Predictably, there is nothing shown for commission paid to the seller out of the remaining figures. Nor the amount of money taken in administration fees.

Perhaps Prosperous Life Ltd don’t pay commission to the agents selling plans?

Maybe all Prosperous Life admin is done free of charge?

Maybe Prosperous Life is a philanthropic, not for profit organisation with a network of similarly generous funeral directors across the UK willing to provide a solid coffin and a hearse and two limousines plus all other funeral director costs at the time of need for a maximum £1,800?

Or maybe not.

As our worried insider wrote to us when they let us know about this latest funeral plan provider:

“Who are they going to get to carry out the funerals for these people and what standard of care are they going to receive?”

Regulation anyone?

 

The sales pitch to funeral directors from the Prosperous Life ‘Funeral Director Liaison Manager’ is shown below.

“Prosperous Life Limited is a prepaid funeral plan provider, operating across the whole of the UK. We offer clients a choice of products, including not only the funeral plan but also legal services to compliment the plans purchased. Some of the services we offer include Wills, Probates and Power of Attorney.

All plans guarantee to cover the designated funeral director’s fees and services, plus an allowance towards disbursements. All monies paid by customers are held securely in a trust called The Great British Funeral Plan Trust and this is a completely separate entity to Prosperous Life Limited, which is managed and governed by an independent board of trustees, including chartered accountants and registered solicitors.

At the time of need, funds will be paid to the designated funeral director within 48 hours.

We are actively growing in the prepaid funeral space and generate new customers via several different channels including advertising in most national and regional papers.

With all this said, we are constantly trying to grow our funeral director panel and make mutually beneficial relationships. We get many requests for specific funeral directors as well as customers just wanting a reputable funeral director local to themselves”

 

Babyloss – a unique kind of grief

Friday, 23 June 2017

Yesterday, I spent the day visiting our latest funeral director who has joined the list of those who are ‘Recommended by the GFG’ – Bennetts Funeral Directors in Essex,  and met most of the lovely staff there, including Leigh Tanner, who has just recently set up a family support group for those who have been bereaved by miscarriage or stillbirth.

Leigh has personally experienced the trauma of recurrent miscarriages, so this is something very close to her heart. When she and her husband were undergoing the sadness of losing their babies there wasn’t anything available locally where Leigh could share her experience with others who had been through the same experience. She felt completely alone and unsupported, so the opportunity to create a support group for other parents was one that she jumped at.

Here’s Leigh speaking about the group in her own words:

‘So, at Bennetts we are very proud of our bereavement groups and that we are able to provide specialist services by people who have themselves experienced such losses.  My group, Tiny Stars, is a miscarriage and still birth group run by myself.  I personally experienced the trauma of recurrent miscarriages and found that there was no help out there locally for me and so therefore I felt very lonely and isolated. 

This group came about after I joined Bennetts and when I realised that they provided services for pre-term babies and miscarriage.  I instinctively asked Jane if I could learn more about this.  I explained that I had been through this and had never been given the opportunity to have a service or group support.  Jane asked me if I would like to be the primary arranger for babies and start a support group for families who have been through such loss which I was very grateful of such an opportunity. 

The word miscarriage is so taboo, with women and men feeling as if it’s something too common to grieve over but this is not the case.  We at Bennetts are fully aware that any loss is a loss and should be treated as such.  For a family to lose a baby to miscarriage or still birth brings such an enormity of grief that destroys the hopes of a future for a baby you have already fallen in love with, and luckily through Bennetts, I have been given this opportunity to offer support for parents who feel that isolation and loss.  

Our group runs at Merrymeade House, Merrymeade Chase Brentwood CM15 9BG on the 2nd Friday of the month from 9.30 – 10.30 in the tea room.  We have exclusive hire of Merrymeade House for the group and offer free refreshments to all guests.

I do of course understand that attending a group can be very daunting and so therefore if anyone would like to contact me prior to coming or just for a chat I would always be available to talk to someone on 01277 210104 or by email on leigh@bennettsfunerals.co.uk

This is such an important initiative, and the GFG is hugely supportive of Leigh and of Bennetts in setting up the Tiny Stars group for the community. If you or anyone you know in the Brentwood area has lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth, Tiny Stars could offer you a place where you can talk to others who have had a similar experience. Do contact Leigh and talk to her.

Leigh also told me about Aching Arms, a babyloss charity run by a group of bereaved mothers who have experienced the pain and devastation of baby loss.

The charity works with more than hospitals across the UK providing teddy bears for parents to take home from hospital when their baby has been miscarried or stillborn. Each bear is a gift from another family who has had a similar experience and who have donated in memory of their baby, and the bear given has the name of their baby on the label. The bears help to provide a connection for bereaved families and ‘to ease their aching arms as they grieve for their baby who has died’.

A bereaved mother explains how this scheme could have helped her:

“When I left hospital without my daughter my heart was broken and my arms were empty. Nothing could have fixed my heart at the point, but if I had had something to hold and cling to then the physical ache I felt so strongly in my arms as I clamped them tightly to my sides might have been less. As soon as I heard about the idea of giving grieving mums a bear to take home I knew that I would have been keen to take one to cuddle as I walked out of the hospital and to sob into in the dark days and nights that followed. Not to replace my baby – nothing ever could – but something to hold as I learnt to live with the empty space my baby left in my heart and in my life.”

The charity also offers every hospital participating in the scheme training for their staff in caring for parents bereaved by miscarriage or stillbirth.

If your local hospital isn’t on the list here do contact Aching Arms on info@achingarms.co.uk

Green Reaper: Should alkaline hydrolysis be regulated in England and Wales on environmental grounds?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Lockhart (2016) illustrates the ‘Green Reaper’

A report by Matilda Munro
This blog post is an adapted version of a project completed by Matilda Munro in October 2016 as part of her Natural Sciences BSc at the Open University.

In the United Kingdom there are two main methods for disposing of the dead: cremation and burial.

Over time, cremation has increased in popularity with it now representing what happens to almost three quarters of people (The Cremation Society of Great Britain, 2015).

Cremation and burial have different environmental impacts – and within each there is variation depending on particular choices made (such as type of coffin).  In cremation, the body is destroyed through burning which uses a high amount of non-renewable energy.  In contrast, in burial the body decomposes slowly over time – however, in a standard burial when the body is placed deep in the ground, decomposition results in the emission of methane which is a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming (TNO, 2011). 

New processes are also in existence which are not yet regulated in England and Wales.  One process in this category is alkaline hydrolysis. In brief, this involves the body being dissolved in an alkaline solution at high temperature and pressure, leaving bone ‘ash’ remains. 

Those involved in the invention of refined alkaline hydrolysis methods, as well as the wider funeral industry have tried to persuade the Ministry of Justice that alkaline hydrolysis should be covered by existing legislation which covers cremation.  However, this argument has been rejected to date by the government who say that since the cremation legislation references ‘burning’, it cannot be applied to alkaline hydrolysis (Thomas, 2010).  This means that whilst disposing of a body through alkaline hydrolysis would not be technically illegal (provided the disposal posed no risk to public health and would not offend public decency), it would be an entirely unregulated industry. All parties involved in the industry are keen that it should be regulated from the start and hence new legislation would be desirable prior to its introduction. Regulation would provide safeguards and minimum standards, as it does for cremation and burial.

What is alkaline hydrolysis?
The process from start to finish, as explained by Sandy Sullivan the Managing Director of Resomation Ltd. (2009):

  1. The body, which is inside a silk or wool coffin, is placed inside the machine.
  2. The machine calculates the weight of the body so the right amount of water and potassium hydroxide (an alkali) is added automatically. 
  3. The liquid is heated and held under pressure to speed up the process.
  4. The contents are then cooled by cold water.
  5. The liquid contents are drained away – this is organic matter with no DNA traces.  In a standard cremation, this would have gone up the chimney of the crematorium. Here it is going to the water table.
  6. Porous bones are left in the Resomator
  7. These remains are rinsed, and dried.
  8. A cremulator reduces the bones to a fine powder, as in cremation.
  9. The resultant ash is pure white and can be returned to families in an urn.

Evidence regarding the environmental impact of alkaline hydrolysis in comparison to burial and cremation
A Life Cycle Analysis of different funeral techniques in the Netherlands was conducted with a view to concluding which method of disposal had the lowest environmental impact by TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO, 2011). In their research, they consider the life cycle to include the gathering of raw materials (such as those to make a coffin), preparations (such as digging a grave or heating a crematorium), carrying out the method, maintenance, processing residues and finally any transport between these steps. 

TNO research (2011, see Table 1 below) shows that alkaline hydrolysis has the lowest impact across the categories measured.  In some instances this is due to the environmental ‘savings’ from being able to recycle things such as metals.  It is the highest contributor in the category of eutrophication.  This can be altered depending on where the ashes are scattered.  With particular reference to its impact on global warming, it can be seen to have a much lower impact than either burial or cremation (Figure 1).

Which method has the smallest environmental impact?

Table 1: Table of results from TNO (2011) showing the different environmental impacts of the disposal techniques

Impact category Unit Burial (average) Cremation (average) Alkaline hydrolysis
Abiotic depletion (ADP)  kg Sb eq 1.26 0.82 -0.11
Acidification (AP) kg SO2 eq  

1.35

 

 

0.67

 

-0.34
Eutrophication (EP) kg PO43- eq 0.75 0.76 1.08
Global warming (GWP)  kg CO2 eq  

180.3

 

79.9

-31.8
Ozone layer depletion (ODP) kg CFC11 eq 1.84E-05 5.53E-06 2.18E-06
Human toxicity (HTP) kg 1,4- DCB eq 115 54 -77
Fresh water aquatic ecotoxicity (FAETP) kg 1,4- DCB eq 34.6 -0.0 -40.0
Terrestrial ecotoxicity (TETP) kg 1,4- DCB eq 2.53 2.30 -0.58
Photochemical oxidation (POCP) kg C2H2 eq 0.16 0.06 -0.01
Land competition (LC) m2.year 259.8 70.0 7.0


Figure 1: The impact on global warming of burial, cremation and alkaline hydrolysis, based on the TNO (2011) data

The table above (TNO, 2011) and Figure 1 show that alkaline hydrolysis has lower impacts than burial and cremation in all areas apart from eutrophication and that burial has the highest impact in all areas apart from eutrophication, with cremation in between. Out of the three methods, it is therefore the most sustainable.

The reliability of the findings
TNO were commissioned to carry out this research by Yarden, a large funeral organisation in the Netherlands.  Whilst there is a potential that the vested interest of Yarden could have an influence on the findings, TNO are a reputable organisation employed to give an independent opinion.  The data for cremation and burial was provided by Yarden as they are one of the largest funeral organisations and therefore have a significant amount of data.  For alkaline hydrolysis, the data was based on hypothetical information provided by Resomation Ltd.  This does raise some issues since it is in Resomation Ltd’s interest that it can sell itself as environmentally superior than other available options.  However, in 2014, the research was updated to included actual data from Resomation Ltd. as by that point they did have data for the disposal of human remains using this method. They did not find that using the real rather than theoretical data changed their findings in any way (TNO, 2014). This data is based on average practices across the disposal methods in the Netherlands and individual choices for the funeral or memorial can easily counterbalance any environmental saving from the disposal method. For example, if a family chooses to have someone disposed of through alkaline hydrolysis, but then they fly the whole family to the Maldives to scatter the ashes, the environmental impact will be very different to a local funeral.

Apart from the TNO study of 2011, and its 2014 update, there is limited independent data specifically comparing the environmental impact of burial, cremation and alkaline hydrolysis.  This is predominantly due to alkaline hydrolysis being a new method and therefore data being limited.  It is possible that new studies will now take place in Scotland following the change in legislation there.  It would be useful to have data like TNO’s, looking at a Life Cycle Analysis within the UK rather than in the Netherlands.  The likelihood is the results would be similar as practices in both countries are more comparable than, for example, practices between the UK and United States where burial is still dominant and embalming is more widespread.  However, additional data from Scotland would be useful.  Notwithstanding the lack of local data, it seems unlikely that vastly different environmental conclusions would come out of further study. Given increasing population and increasing concerns regarding global warming and emissions in particular, it could be argued there is enough evidence that alkaline hydrolysis should be regulated – then it is up to the consumer to make the choice between the methods.

The views of people within the funeral industry, excluding those directly responsible for alkaline hydrolysis
The Cremation Society of Great Britain was founded in 1874 and from its inception, was open to the idea that in the future, a better means of disposal than cremation may come into existence. The original declaration stated: “Until some better method is devised we desire to adopt that usually known as cremation” (Cremation Society of Great Britain, 1999). In 2008, the Cremation Society changed their constitution to allow them to accommodate alkaline hydrolysis (Sullivan, 2009). In some states in the United States where the process is used, it is referred to as bio-cremation.  Other organisations such as Co-operative Funeralcare which is one of the largest funeral directors in the UK have also expressed their support for alkaline hydrolysis as a process. In particular, they state that the environmental considerations are significant as people do want to end their life in a more environmentally friendly way (Thomas, 2010).

However, some involved in cremation do not accept the environmental argument in favour of alkaline hydrolysis.  Andrew Platts of Crystal Air Solutions, for example, argues that crematoria can be carbon neutral if the heat is recycled and suitable scrubbers are fitted on the chimneys (Thomas, 2010).

The views of those behind the technique of alkaline hydrolysis
There is one company leading the way promoting alkaline hydrolysis, both in the UK and abroad.  That company is Resomation Ltd., founded by Sandy Sullivan in Scotland in 2007 with the aim of promoting alkaline hydrolysis (which they call Resomation®) globally.  They have patents pending on particular aspects of their technology and are the first company to have used the method to dispose of human remains in the United States (Resomation®, 2016b).  Their view, unsurprisingly, is that their method of disposal provides a credible alternative to both cremation and burial – and that it represents a more environmentally friendly method than cremation.

The views of the government and the current legal situationFundamentally, alkaline hydrolysis is not illegal – but there is no legal framework by which it could be regulated as an industry in England and Wales.  As explained by White (2011), the Ministry of Justice decided in 2009 that the existing Act regulating cremation cannot be applied to alkaline hydrolysis since it specifically references burning and they do not accept that alkaline hydrolysis is burning.   In 2012, when alkaline hydrolysis had not yet been tried, the Under Secretary of State for Justice said that the “Government will follow with interest the progress of trials [of the alkaline hydrolysis process] in Europe and the United States” (House of Commons, 2012). In the summer of 2016, the Scottish parliament passed legislation regulating alkaline hydrolysis using their existing legislation around cremation (Scotland, Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016, s.99.1).  This has now, arguably, put additional pressure on the Ministry of Justice to pass the equivalent legislation in England and Wales. 

Opposition to alkaline hydrolysis as a process
There is very limited opposition to the idea of alkaline hydrolysis as a process. In general, opposition is made due to public health concerns regarding the disposal of the liquid remains (effluent) after the process is completed, though there is no evidence that it poses a public health risk.  Some people argue that it is undignified and disrespectful to the deceased, or that the high pressure, high temperature unit could be dangerous (Olson, 2014). 

Whilst people may initially feel disgusted or unsure of the method, once properly explained there is no reason why it could not end up as popular a choice as cremation is today.  Indeed, when cremation was first introduced, it was not popular but has increased in uptake year on year (Cremation Society, 2015).  Where in cremation organic matter goes up a chimney, with alkaline hydrolysis, it is returned to the water table (it has more in common with burial in this respect) (Resomation®, 2016a). In funeral homes where it has been introduced in the United States, many families are choosing to sit alongside the alkaline hydrolysis machine during the process (Sullivan, 2009).  

With regard to the public health argument, when Resomation Ltd. discussed how the effluent could be disposed of in the UK, all major water companies confirmed that it would be possible for it to be entered into the mains water system for processing in the usual way.  No DNA material survives the alkaline hydrolysis process so what is left is a sterile liquid (Thomas, 2010). Whilst this means water returned to homes as drinking water could indeed have come from this process, this is no different to water coming from waste treatment plants.  

Proposed Solution
Given alkaline hydrolysis is not technically illegal, and given there seems to be strong consensus that as a method of disposal, it ought to be offered in England and Wales as an environmentally friendly alternative to burial or cremation, it is possible that the Cremation Society of Great Britain, or other large bodies in the industry will ‘self-regulate’ the process – particularly as it has now been covered by specific legislation in Scotland.  If this were to happen, the risk would be that the government would have to react and legislate retrospectively rather than proactively, now, while the industry do not provide alkaline hydrolysis as an option for disposal. This matter has now been ongoing since 2009 and the situation in Scotland does apply additional pressure to the government of England and Wales.  Why should the same method be regulated on one side of the border and unregulated or unavailable on the other?

In England and Wales, there are two main ways that the Secretary of State could regulate alkaline hydrolysis.  One involves amending the Cremation Act of 1902, and the other involves using powers from the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. For the Cremation Act of 1902 to apply to alkaline hydrolysis, this Act would have to be amended and passed by parliament.  Draft legislation to this end was produced by White (2011) who is also a member of the Council of the Cremation Society of Great Britain.  This shows that there is support for this legislation even in areas from which one might expect to find opposition.

Conclusion
Under current legislation, whilst any method of disposal that does not offend public decency or cause a risk to public health is permitted, the methods which are regulated by government legislation are burial and cremation.  Between these two methods, the evidence shows that cremation is more sustainable than burial.  When alkaline hydrolysis is considered, the environmental arguments in its favour are strong, and backed with independent evidence. The first cremation took place in 1886 in Woking, as organised by the Cremation Society of Great Britain who then worked hard to bring about the Cremation Act of 1902.  It is perhaps significant that cremation started before being fully legislated (as it too would not have been illegal for the same reasons alkaline hydrolysis is not illegal today).  If the government accepts that it is preferable to legislate in advance rather than retrospectively, then they will need to act soon.  The government has the opportunity, along with 13 states in the United States and Scotland, to be global leaders in this sustainable method for the disposal of human remains. 

Update:
In April 2017, it was announced that Sandwell Council has approved plans to extend Rowley Regis Crematorium to house a Resomator machine. See here.

References
Cameo (2016) Sharing the burden [Online]. Available at http://www.cameoonline.org.uk/ (Accessed 19 September 2016)

The Cremation Society of Great Britain (1974) History of Modern Cremation in Great Britain from 1874: The First Hundred Years [Online]. Available at http://www.srgw.info/CremSoc/History/HistSocy.html#introduction (Accessed 27 September 2016)

The Cremation Society of Great Britain (2015) Progress of cremation in England and Wales Scotland and N. Ireland 1885-2014 [Online]. Available at http://www.srgw.info/CremSoc4/Stats/National/ProgressF.html  (Accessed 12 September 2016)

House of Commons (2012) Hansard, 5 September, Volume 549, Column 354 [Online]. Available at  https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2012-09-05/debates/12090536000002/BurialSpace?highlight=alkaline%20hydrolysis#contribution-12090536001265 (Accessed 29 September 2016).

Lockart, Z. (2016) Green Reaper [Collage]. Private collection.

The Mayo Clinic (2016) Body donation at Mayo Clinic [Online]. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/body-donation/biocremation-resomation (Accessed 15 September 2016)

Ministry of Justice (2007) Burial Grounds: The results of a survey of burial grounds in England and Wales [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/217908/burial_grounds_web_whole_plus_bookmarks.pdf (Accessed 29 September 2016) 

Olson, P. (2014) ‘Flush and Bone: Funeralizing alkaline hydrolysis in the United States’, Science, Technology and Human Values, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 666-693 [Online]. DOI: 10.1177/0162243914530475 (Accessed 21 September 2016)

Resomation® (2016a) A need for change [Online]. Available at http://resomation.com/about/need-for-change/ (Accessed 15 September 2016)

Resomation® (2016b) Who are we [Online]. Available at http://resomation.com/about/who-are-we/ (Accessed 15 September 2016)

Resomation® (2016c) News [Online]. Available at http://resomation.com/news/ (Accessed 15 September 2016)

Rumble, H., Troyer, T., Walter, T. and Woodthorpe, K. (2014) ‘Disposal or dispersal? Environmentalism and final treatment of the British dead’. Mortality, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 243-260 [Online]. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13576275.2014.920315 (Accessed 19 September 2016)

Scotland. Cremation and Burial (Scotland) Act 2016, a.s.p. 20.  

Sullivan, S. (2009) ‘Resomation®: Update’, Pharos International, vol. 75, pp. 4-8.

Thomas, H. (2010) Resomation: The Debate (Part 1), Pharos International, vol. 76, pp. 4-8.

TNO (2011) Environmental impact of different funeral technologies, Utrecht, TNO, 034.24026.

TNO (2014) Environmental impacts of different funeral techniques – update of prior TNO research [Online]. Available at https://www.tno.nl/en/about-tno/news/2014/12/environmental-impacts-of-different-funeral-techniques-update-of-prior-tno-research/ (Accessed 19 September 2016)

White, S. (2011) ‘The Public Health (Aquification) (England and Wales) Regulations?’. Pharos International, vol. 77, pp. 10-11.

There will be cake

Sunday, 21 May 2017

June is nearly here and with that comes two wonderful opportunities to meet with the Good Funeral Guide team, make some new friends from the #GoodFuneralGuild and talk all things funeral related whilst eating cake.  

A Guild Gig

On Saturday 3rd June from 12pm, #GoodFuneralGuild member and all round nice guy Toby Angel will be hosting the first Guild Gig at his recently completed barrow in Cambridge.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Toby’s interpretation of ancient burial barrows, redesigned to be beautiful and meaningful places for ashes to be stored, come along to see Willow Row.  It has a profound effect on most of the people who visit it and is a welcome alternative to the (often) depressing crematorium rose garden.

There’ll be a BBQ, much cake (including Toby’s youngest daughter’s famous lemon drizzle cake!) and lots of friendly conversation from lovely #GoodFuneralGuild members.  Bring along your children, dogs, sausages and spouses.  You don’t need to be a #GoodFuneralGuild member to come along.  The curious are very welcome!

If you’d like to come along, please email louise.winter@goodfuneralguide.co.uk

A Guild Gig
Saturday 3rd June from 12pm at Willow Row, Cambridgeshire
Directions here

National Funeral Exhibition 2017

As Fran has already announced, we’ve raided our piggy banks and managed to fund a small stand at the National Funeral Exhibition at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire.

The GFG team – Fran Hall, Louise Winter, John Porter and the one and only Charles Cowling – will be serving up cake and conversation at the three day event from our small but beautiful stand.

If you’re going to be there and would like a break from the rows and rows of mortuary equipment, salesmen and free pens, then come along to chat with our team over a slice of complimentary cake.

We’ll in in Hall 1 on stand 146, hidden behind a mountain of cake (literally).

If you’re one of our recommended funeral directors, come along to our stand as soon as you arrive as we may have a little something for you.  #GoodFuneralGuild members – don’t forget to wear your pin with pride!

If you haven’t registered for THE event of Funeralworld yet, you can do so here.

National Funeral Exhibition
Friday 9th – Sunday 11th June 2017
Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

The real faces of the members of the Good Funeral Guild

Friday, 28 April 2017

We are delighted to launch our new Good Funeral Guild website today, complete with photos of (most of!) our wonderful supporters who have already signed up. There are over 150 people who are now part of the Guild, making connections and having discussions, and helping us to keep the GFG afloat.

Have a look here: www.goodfuneralguild.co.uk. What a great looking bunch!

If you’d like to be part of this great new network we’d love to have you on board. Great things are happening already, and we have a second exclusive Guild get together planned for early June. Go to the ‘Join Us’ tab on the new website and you can be part of the change that is happening in funeralworld. And get to come to Guild Gigs.

PS If you’re already a member of the Guild but find you have a logo instead of a photo on your profile, it probably means you haven’t sent us a pic yet. It’s not too late so send your best selfie over.

Team GFG

 

 

Something for the weekend

Friday, 21 April 2017

If you were at the crematorium this afternoon because someone has died, I’m sorry.

If you were at the crematorium this afternoon because someone has died, and you used the conveniences only to find them in the condition above, then on behalf of the UK funeral industry, I’m not only embarrassed but I’m also deeply sorry.

There are crematoria out there who are exemplary (see here). There are also crematoria out there who seem to have forgotten the reason for their existence – to serve the needs of bereaved families by providing funeral services.

Consider the general state of affairs of certain funeral providers – buildings in terrible condition, stained carpets, poor sound systems, unusable toilets and conveyor belt timings that only allow for 20 minute services. Have you ever tried to acknowledge a life and a death in 20 minutes? Never mind telling a grieving family member that they won’t be able to talk about their loved one because there just isn’t time.  And then having to tell them that the one available toilet on site isn’t actually working today.

We wouldn’t accept this in life. So why do we think it’s acceptable in death? How we treat death is ultimately how we treat life.  So it matters; it matters enormously.

I personally have no interest in a life symbolised by a toilet with a lid that doesn’t stay open, a hand drier that blows out cold air and used tissues all over the floor.

As funeral professionals, can we stop accepting the unacceptable on behalf of our grieving clients. If you are a professional who uses a crematoria as part of your work – ministers, celebrants, funeral directors, florists, attendants etc – then you are responsible.

It’s the people who are out on funerals every day who can make a difference. We’re very good at driving around bereaved people in shiny cars that have been polished twenty times. But we drop them off substandard crematoria which fail to meet anyone’s needs, never mind the needs of grieving people, who have little idea of what to expect and mostly accept anything.

That’s my Friday night rant over. Enjoy your weekend everyone.  I hope it looks nothing like the photos above. 

Louise

P.S. The photographs above were taken at a real crematorium before a real funeral at 4pm today in the South of England.  If you recognise it as your local crem, I am SO sorry that your local council thinks this is what you deserve.

P.P.S. The sticky mess on the toilet lid is an attempt to make the lid stay up when the toilet is being used.  It doesn’t work.  

Perfect post election party

Friday, 21 April 2017

Whatever your political persuasion, come June 9th it’s likely you’ll be all politicked out after yet another trip to the polling booth. We know we will.

What better way to switch off from the endless analysis that will undoubtedly fill the media when the polls have closed than to head to the heart of England, to the National Funeral Exhibition?

This unique three day event takes place every two years with hundreds of exhibitors showcasing everything new in funeralworld, so don’t miss the opportunity to be there in 2017.

The GFG has rummaged down the back of the sofa and inside our piano, and cobbled together enough money to pay for a very small stand at NFE, but we guarantee we’re going to maximise the use of our four square metres and have one of the most attractive and desirable exhibits in the building… 

Come and see for yourselves – we’re in Hall 1 on stand 146.

If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here .

2017 Death Oscar anyone?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Last year’s awards ceremony in central London

It’s that time of year again – nominations open today for this year’s Good Funeral Awards, the Oscars of the death trade. Since 2012, the Good Funeral Awards have been celebrating excellence in the funeral world and have championed the pioneers, the bold and the brave, as well as the under-sung hard workers behind the scenes.

Last year there was an unprecedented number of entries, and the awards were presented at a glittering lunchtime ceremony attended by hundreds of people from across the country.

Coverage of the event in the media was overwhelmingly positive, see a piece in The Independent here and an article in The Guardian here, with national and local newspapers and radio stations all fascinated by something that journalists perceive as peculiar, but that we feel is richly deserved – recognition of outstanding work by those involved in caring for the dying, dead or bereaved.

Once again, there is an opportunity to nominate anyone who you feel deserves recognition or appreciation for their work in what is often a much misunderstood or maligned industry, or to enter yourself or the company you work for. 

To enter for an award, simply go to the Good Funeral Awards website and you will find the entry form at the foot of the ‘Enter’ page. Download it, complete it and send it in along with the entry fee* if applicable.

Every entry is carefully considered before The Long List is published in August. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in September.

To nominate a person or company, please write to the organisers at info@goodfuneralawards.co.uk and tell us why you feel they deserve to be a winner. Please ensure that you include their contact details including their e-mail address, and the category you would like to nominate them under.

All nominees will be contacted and invited to submit an official entry in the category they feel most appropriate, along with the entry fee* if applicable.

*The entry fee applicable to most categories is intended to help save the organisers from sinking under the weight of administering over 600 nominations and associated entries. If you want to nominate someone and pay the entry fee for them that’s absolutely fine, this happened quite a lot last year and nominees were both touched and very grateful. 

You have plenty of time, nominations close in July. And tickets aren’t yet on sale for the awards ceremony. But you know what they say about the early bird.

This year’s categories are listed below. Aficionados of the Good Funeral Awards will notice a few new titles – we’ve tried to reflect the changes we are seeing in the world of funerals and to make sure that there’s a category for everyone. 

The 2017 Category List

  • Most significant contribution to the understanding of death
  • Best death related public engagement event
  • Most helpful funeral advice website
  • Doula of the year
  • Anatomical pathologist technician of the year
  • Care of the deceased award
  • Coffin supplier of the year
  • Funeral florist of the year
  • Minister of the year
  • Celebrant of the year
  • Gravedigger of the year
  • Best burial ground in the UK
  • Best crematorium in the UK
  • Crematorium attendant of the year
  • Best direct cremation provider
  • Best low cost funeral provider
  • Most eco-friendly funeral director
  • Funeral arranger of the year
  • Most promising new funeral director business
  • Most promising trainee funeral director
  • Best modern funeral director
  • Best traditional funeral director
  • Funeral caterer of the year
  • The ‘what to do with the ashes’ award
  • Lifetime achievement award
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