Becoming a Certified Green Funeral Home
It is probable that everywhere you go, you see the term “green”. The green movement is a big one and it has integrated into every part of our every day lives. How many products do you see with the recycling symbol on them? How often do you go to the local grocery store and see reusable bags for sale at the checkout line for a minimal fee? How many notebooks and various paper supplies have you seen where the packaging claims to be made of recycled materials? For everything we do, there is an eco-friendly option. Our gasoline is becoming somewhat less harmful to the environment and our cars are becoming more environmentally friendly, as well.
It is exceptionally easy for anyone who wants to do a small part to help the environment to do so as a second thought by buying hybrid cars or the one-dollar reusable grocery bags in the checkout line. It’s easy to set out your recyclable materials with the trash and to buy products made from recycled materials.
There are people who take a more active role in the green movement, though, too. You may be even be one such person, a person who bikes to work or carpools to reduce emissions. You may be a person who maintains a compost in your garden. Whether you are or not, it is safe to assume that more than one person or family in your community is conscious of the effects of their actions on the environment and spend a good portion of their lives taking action to be more environmentally-friendly.
If you are that conscious of the world around you and your own carbon footprint while you are alive, why would that desire to do your part stop when your life ends? It doesn’t! Doing one’s part to help the environment is something that can be continued even after death through green burials and green cremations. The trick here, however, is that a person or family desiring to pursue these eco-friendly options don’t always know these services are offered and, if they do, they have no idea where to find them.
Normally, when a person is lacking the information they need, they tend to turn toward the one place that always seems to have all of the answers: the internet. It is there that, once they know they can have green burials and green cremations, they will find the funeral homes that offer these services and take their business to them. If you are not coming up in these internet searches, where does that leave you? It leaves you without a family that, otherwise, might have been someone you could have served.
So, what can you do? What can you do to offer these services and what can you do to make sure that the families in your community know that you do? Aside from the obvious marketing and community promotion answers, there is, in fact, another one! That answer is to become a Certified Green Funeral Home. Not only does doing so let those who wish to pursue greener options know that you offer them, but it also lets everyone else in your community that you are environmentally-conscious. While someone may not personally be overly concerned with the green movement, they will still know that you are and that leaves another positive impression on the members of your community.
“You want green burial to always be an option in funeral service rather than an alternative and the way to get that done today is by having the ability to vouch for what those standards are to verify them. And it’s not understood by a lot of people in this industry and a lot of others but I can tell you, of all the green washing that is going on today, that verifiable standards are going to be increasingly important,” said Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council.
Aside from all of the positive ramifications of officially going green, there are really no drawbacks to doing so. Going green improves your image in the community and can potentially help decrease your overhead costs, a topic which we discusses in this issue’s other feature editorial. No one is going to see that you offer greener options and decide that they don’t want to have anything to do with the traditional services you offer. Grocery stores offer their reusable bags, but rather than boycotting the store, people simply choose paper or plastic, instead. Going green—and becoming certified in doing so—simply helps you serve an even wider variety of clientele. There’s no reason not to at least look into doing so!
According to Darren Crouch, President of Passages International, “There are a number of reasons that a funeral home should go green and offer greener products and services. The first and most obvious reason, is that it is better for the planet. That is why everyone goes green, right? To protect, conserve, reduce, reuse and recycle. The second reason is to benefit the business by increasing revenues and exceeding families expectations. What many funeral directors fail to consider is that there is a large, and growing, segment of the population that finds tremendous value is greener products and services. These consumers are not interested in traditional alternatives and will quickly opt for minimal direct services if the products (and services) they desire are not made available to them. The bottom line is that if funeral homes do not embrace green, they will be leaving revenues on the table, under-serving a growing number of families and missing an opportunity to receive some much needed good publicity in their local market.”
Now that you have that answer, though, there is undoubtedly another one that forms. How would you go about becoming a Certified Green Funeral Home? What does that entail?
Well, there are a few ways you can go about becoming a Certified Green Funeral Home. Two organizations, in particular can help you achieve this goal. The NFDA offers the Green Funeral PracticesTM. According to NFDA’s website, “Exclusive to qualifying NFDA members, this new award program recognizes exceptional NFDA funeral homes that have adopted and implemented ethical, sustainable green funeral and business practices in order to become more environmentally responsible to client families, employees, and their communities.” In order to qualify for this certificate, your firm must meed certain eligibility requirements such as: offering more green services; offering one or more sustainable, biodegradable caskets; commitment to the terms of the certificate program among other requirements. For a full list of these requirements and more information, you can visit www.nfda.org/green-funeral-practices-certificate.html. You can also apply for the certificate on that page or navigate to further resources.
The Green Burial Council also offers multiple levels of certification for burial grounds, funeral homes, products and cremation disposition programs. The GBC has had discussions with CANA and other leaders in the cremation field about setting forth verifiable standards. According to the website, “A Green Burial Council approved funeral home must define in its general price and refer to to in any published website its ‘green’ offerings including the sanitation, preservation, and restoration of a decedent without the use of chemicals that are toxic or non biodegradable, including the option of a private visitation. A provider must also refrain from making any claims in its general price list or on its website or in any waiver/disclosure that might dissuade a consumer from seeking a green funeral.”
For funeral homes, the Green Burial Council offers one to three “leaf” ratings based on the amount of criteria you meet for being a green funeral home. Some of these criteria include allowing families of decedents to have the option of a public viewing without embalming or with the use of GBC approved post-mortem fluids and/or carrying at least three GBC approved/rated burial containers plus more. A comprehensive list can be found at www.greenburialcouncil.org/standards. Also on the main website, you will find a vast array of green resources for the funeral industry. It is also a site that can be passed on to your families so that they may also widen their knowledge of the options available to them. Another good resource to pass on to your families is www.agreenerfuneral.org sponsored by Passages International. “I think a lot of the eco-conscious consumers we’ve discovered have had misgivings about the funeral service industry and they’re willing to suspend disbelief but they want to know that there are folks here that they can work with,” said Sehee.
Both of these organizations can easily help you take the next step into becoming certified and/or get you started off on the right foot in that direction. As stated above, there are no ‘cons’ to pursuing such a certificate but the ‘pros’ are abundant. You benefit your business through offering more products and services, painting and even more positive light on your firm’s brand and attract those who, otherwise, might find another firm that could meet their ‘green’ needs. And all the while you are better serving your families, your community and your Earth. Sounds like an undeniable win-win kind of situation to me! FBA