There are lies, damned lies and carbon footprint stats. Their most impressive feature is that they are so often counter-intuitive. Here’s an example:
Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand…recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption… [T]hey found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Read on here.
The same sort of statistical sleight of hand can demonstrate that a coffin shipped from the other side of the world racks up the equivalent of no more than half a dozen road miles. Suffering as I do from severe and incurable innumeracy, I am ill-equipped to do more than shrug in puzzlement. I’m hoping you’re rather better than me at this sort of thing, because I’d like to ask your opinion about the following.
The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) has published an article in its journal, the Funeral Director, titled Dispelling the myth about cardboard coffins. It makes this assertion: “Corrugated cardboard coffins may appear to present a green image and are perceived as a low cost alternative to traditional coffins, but in fact they’re not as cheap and environmentally friendly as they look, particularly if they’re made from recycled cardboard.” This dismayed me because I know Will Hunnybel at Greenfield Creations and I’ve always happily reckoned him to be a pretty straight, green sort of guy. The article goes on: “… the overall cost to the planet may be more than that of a solid pine or chipboard veneer coffin.”
That rang an alarm bell. Why would the NAFD’s environmental consultant, Martin Smith, stand a pine coffin alongside a chipboard coffin? Even a dunderhead like my good self knows that a pine coffin is carbon neutral. But what do I know?
Reading further, I find that cardboard coffin makers go about their business is a most beastly, even eco-vindictive, way: “Pine trees, from sustainable forests, provide the basic raw material … the branches are stripped off … torn into small chips and cooked in a solution of”, to cut a long story short, a lot of nasty-sounding chemicals including “sulphates, sulphides and” (can you guess?) “sulphites.”
Bastards, I hear you mutter; all that stripping and tearing and cooking, and sulphates and sulphides and sulphites. Quite so. How unlike the home life of our own, dear chipboard makers. We learn that they do it by much gentler means, “by pressing timber fibres together with glue and heat” employing “fewer chemicals, glues, energy and water than cardboard coffins.”
Friends, am I to remove Will Hunnybel and all other cardboard coffinmakers from my Christmas card list? Was I wrong to suppose that chipboard contains traces of formaldehyde? Is the bottom about to fall out of cardboard coffins?
Do leave a comment, please. This is important.