Death kills?

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Back in the day, it was a given of the natural order that the decomposition of our remains made us part of the food chain. In the last few decades, the negative environmental impact of burial and cremation has become an ethical issue. Although there’s increasing scepticism towards scientific claims about man-made global warming, one can still want to reduce air, soil and water pollution, with its adverse affects on our health and that of wildlife. 

Embalming chemicals; hardwood coffins; concrete vaults; quarried headstones; marble mausoleums; processional motorcades; non-organic flowers and refreshments: all on the bad list. 

Cardboard coffins and biodegradable urns; planting a tree to mark a resting place; new crematoria chimneys that reduce emissions; removal of mercury-amalgam fillings before cremation; car-sharing and locally-sourced refreshments: all on the good list. 

While dictating the menu of the buffet and the material of headstones might seem too finger-wagging, there’s a case for reducing toxins by replacing embalming formaldehyde with glutaraldehyde, which is less poisonous, and designing ‘clean’ smokestacks. 

That’s the beauty of technological evolution. Sophisticated Man’s primal survival instinct remains intact, He devises solutions to problems that arise. People argue over the best course of action, or the urgency of action, but the doomsayers are invariably silenced. 

Nuclear fuel and GM food polarise opinion when proposed as the sustainable answer to the world’s needs. Some see wind farms as an answer while others see them as useless energy generators that guzzle fossil fuel in their construction, slice up birds and damage tourism as eco-eyesores. 

In his new book, Watermelons (so-titled because they’re green on the outside and red on the inside), James Delingpole discusses the Climategate scandal in which tax payer-funded scientists manipulated research in the most unscientific ways to make man-made warming claims stand up. Their lies, cover-ups, distortions and exaggerations, claims Delingpole, have caused mass hysteria resulting in liberties curtailed and trillions of pounds squandered. 

What’s your take on the green movement’s influence on the funeral industry? Necessary initiatives welcomed by today’s consumers? Or overdone and greeted with apathy or scepticism?    

Lairs – time for re-evaluation?

Posted by Vale

Have you ever thought about the rateable value of cemeteries and burial grounds?

The Scottish Assessors Association have. They offer information about how sites and locations should be valued and have some fascinating guidance for cemeteries, churchyards, graveyards and necropolises.

A guidance note advises that:  

The recommended rate is £110 per coffin lair. Where casket lairs are provided they should be taken at £45 per lair.  (see more here)

Lairs. Wonderful!

But there’s more to this tale than old fashioned language. In February the Bournemouth Echo reported here  that:

WIMBORNE Cemetery has scored a landmark victory in a two-year battle against a 150 per cent rise in its rates.

Thousands of chapels across the country could escape similarly steep costs after the cemetery won an appeal based on an historic act that the Church of England cannot own anything.

Rather than accept the Valuations Office hiking the picturesque cemetery chapel’s annual rateable value from £3,250 to £8,000, clerk and registrar Anthony Sherman took the matter to Parliament, enlisted barristers and even threatened a judicial review. Now the rise has been overturned, they’re looking to claim the money back.

It seems there could be wider implications too, particularly for Natural Burial grounds. A local company,  Tapper Funerals which also operates a natural burial ground congratulated Wimborne on its win and commented that :

Valuations of cemeteries have always been extremely low due to the low financial turnover and the high maintenance costs relative to the large expanse of land (similar in some ways to farming). Strangely, as private businesses embarked on cemetery provision, the Valuations Office has started to view them completely differently with increases, in some places, of many 100s of percent. It is difficult not to be cynical over the timing of such changes!

You can read more here.

Is there a wider issue out there? Are other natural – or just non-religious – burial grounds fighting local battles about rateable values? It would be interesting to find out.

Read between the lines, what do you see?

From the Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand:

Taranaki people say they are keen on “green burials” despite the Awanui Cemetery natural burial site sitting empty eight months after opening.

The Taranaki Daily News revealed yesterday that none of the 235 plots at the Awanui Cemetery natural burial site had been sold since it opened for business in April last year.

… … … 

New Plymouth’s W Abraham Funeral Directors’ manager, Mark Baker, said a regular coffin could cost as little as $700, but the natural coffins available cost at least $1800.


What do you want?

James Leedam, a good friend of the Good Funeral Guide, is collecting info about what people want at funeral, how they would find out about it, and what influences their choices. As the ceo of Natural Burial Grounds, James is especially keen to find out what influences those who go green when they die. 

He’d very much like you to fill in a survey for him. It’s one of those Survey Monkey surveys where you don’t have to spend ages entering personal details, etc. It’s completely anonymous, and it won’t take you more than two minutes.

Please do it. Find it here