Greener goodbyes

By Lee Bevan, head of funeral at Central Co-op

As environmental awareness grows, many people are rethinking how their choices impact the planet, even in death. The funeral industry, traditionally associated with significant environmental costs, is evolving to meet the needs of eco-conscious consumers. During Great Big Green Week (8 to 16 June), Central Co-op is spotlighting the initiatives designed to create a lasting, positive impact on the environment.

Conventional funerals often involve practices that can be harmful to the environment. Embalming chemicals, non-biodegradable coffins and extensive use of cut flowers contribute to soil contamination, greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion. Cremation, while less impactful in terms of land use, still releases significant amounts of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

Recognising these challenges, Central Co-op has embraced a range of eco-friendly alternatives aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of funeral services.


One of our most impactful initiatives is the commitment to plant a tree for every funeral we conduct. With over 20,000 trees planted where they’re needed most, this programme helps offset CO2 emissions, combat deforestation, prevent flooding and improve food security. These trees also provide habitats for wildlife and therefore contribute to biodiversity.

However, if a family would like something more personal, we can plant a tree named after the person who has died in a location that the family can visit in the UK. Memorial trees offer a unique place to remember someone while giving back to the environment. At Central Co-op, we arrange for the planting of a tree in someone’s name, complete with a special message and the location for family members to visit.

This living memorial grows over time, serving as a beautiful, enduring tribute that also benefits the planet.

Traditional scattering of ashes can alter soil pH levels, potentially harming plant life. By using innovative “Return to Nature” soil, which mixes ashes with nutrients, funeral homes can neutralise the impact and transform ashes into a source of nourishment for plants. Families can use this enriched soil to plant a memorial tree, scatter it in nature or add it to a flower bed, ensuring a lasting, positive legacy.

Flowers are a central part of many funerals, but traditional arrangements often involve plastic and non-biodegradable materials. By avoiding plastic and using more sustainable practices, florists can create beautiful, eco-friendly arrangements that can be enjoyed at home or even replanted after the service.

Central Co-op offers a variety of more sustainable coffin options made from materials like natural wood, cardboard, woven bamboo and banana leaves. These coffins are designed to be biodegradable and free of plastic, significantly reducing their environmental impact. By offering more eco-friendly choices, homes can support a commitment to sustainability while providing a dignified farewell.

One of the biggest contributors to climate change across the globe is transportation, and the same can also be said for the carbon footprint of a funeral. To address this, Central Co-op upgraded its fleet to include electric hearses and limousines. And for those seeking a truly unique and environmentally friendly option, we also offer bicycle hearses – though they may take a bit longer to reach their destination, they symbolise a profound commitment to reducing environmental impact and are perfect for nearby services.

Offering more sustainable funeral options allows families to honour the ones they love while making choices that benefit the planet. A range of green funeral options ensures that every detail – from the coffin and flowers to the final resting place – reflects a commitment to sustainability. These practices not only lower the environmental impact but also offer peace of mind in knowing that the tribute to a loved one is also a gift to future generations.

At Central Co-op, our dedication to sustainability goes beyond individual products and services. We aim to create a comprehensive approach that encompasses all aspects of our operations. By planting a tree for every funeral, using more sustainable materials and offering eco-friendly options, we strive to make a meaningful difference to the families we serve.

Planning a funeral can be overwhelming, especially when trying to make environmentally conscious choices. It’s essential to build a compassionate team to guide families through every step of the process, expert advice and support can help to ensure that a final farewell is both meaningful and more sustainable.

This Great Big Green Week, Central Co-op is encouraging the industry to set new standards for funeral services and include more options for greener goodbyes. Honouring not only the families we serve but also contributing to a healthier planet. Together, we can create a more sustainable society that respects both the memory of those who have died and the world they leave behind.

Central Co-op is dedicated to providing eco-friendly funeral options that align with the values of sustainability and care for the community and environment. Whether through our tree-planting initiatives, more sustainable products or greener transportation options, we strive to offer services that make a lasting, positive impact.

Back to top button