Victoria funeral parlour promotes green burial option option
Biodegradable casket materials include cardboard, cotton
Canwest News Service
Thursday, April 17, 2008
CREDIT: Darren Stone, Canwest News Service
Chris Benesch, manager of Victoria's Sands Funeral Chapel, is marketing biodegradable caskets, which have been big sellers.
VICTORIA -- People can now reduce their environmental footprint even after they've stopped walking the earth.
A Victoria funeral parlour is promoting cardboard caskets covered in wood veneer and urns made of compressed cotton, rice and other biodegradable materials to provide the dearly departed and their loved ones a greener burial option.
Fabric-covered cardboard caskets have been around for years, but have never looked this good or been so environmentally appealing, says Chris Benesch, manager of Sands Funeral Chapel, a division of Toronto-based Arbor Memorial Services.
"People want eye appeal and not to spend a whole lot, like a mortgage, so this gives them a good option if they are having a viewing," says Benesch.
"These days, the environmental issues are important, especially to the generation that is now burying their parents."
As a second-generation funeral director, Benesch said "My first impression was 'Wow, that's cardboard?' "
The caskets, manufactured in China and imported by Pan Pacific Paper Caskets in Vancouver, support up to 225 kilograms (almost 500 pounds) but only weigh 20 to 30 kilograms, depending on the model. Made from 100 per cent recycled cardboard and pressed in honeycomb style to provide strength, the coffins currently come in quite convincing imitations of oak, mahogany and pine.
Cardboard caskets also require less time and fuel in the cremation process, which reduces emissions, said Benesch. B.C. is the North American leader in cremation, with more than 80 per cent of clients choosing it as an alternative to burial.
Retail prices of the cardboard caskets are only about 15 per cent below the real-wood counterparts, said Benesch, who expects the prices to fall as volume increases. Traditional caskets at Sand's range from a $13,000, stainless-steel model and $5,800 for solid cherry to the traditional unlined pine box, which sells for $895.
Funeral service firms are joining companies worldwide providing green options for consumers.
Europeans are ahead of the curve, providing everything from pay-per-view funerals so mourners do not have to travel to services, to a process being offered in Sweden and Germany called Promessa Organic, where the deceased is submerged in liquid nitrogen and sound waves reduce the brittle remains to powder.
Closer to home, Royal Oak Burial Park in Saanich -- the largest community-owned cemetery in B.C. at 55 hectares -- is setting aside one-third of a hectare for a natural burial site, the first of its kind in Canada and scheduled to open in the fall.
Under the guidelines for burial, only bodies without embalming will be allowed and they can be wrapped in a simple shroud or in a biodegradable casket. Concrete liners, which cover caskets in traditional burying, will not be permitted and wildflowers, shrubs and plants will substitute traditional steel and stone grave markers.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008