In 2010, there were 143,000 deaths registered in Australia. Dieing is something we all have in common no matter who we are or where we are from.
Why is it in Australia that we once passed, put our loved ones in a box that is made from toxic glues, and will slow down the time it takes to break down the body in the ground? Coffins are a difficult area to discuss, as the time you begin to look at purchasing a coffin isn’t the most favourable of times, but it is something that needs to be discussed.
So why are trees cut down, and then machined, machined, machined, glued, sold, then put back into the ground? It takes 25 - 30 years for a pine tree to reach the required height to be cut down. Does it matter what kind of timber it is? What difference will it make once it’s buried under ground? And why can’t we bury the departed under a nice tree in a park or forest? For those of you who are looking for something not so wasteful, there are many environmentally friendly coffins available. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if the coffin was made from biodegradable materials - that once placed in the ground, would biodegrade, allowing the body to naturally return into the earth instead of being contained inside a box and left to sit there? Think about the amount of unnecessary waste there is. When bodies are cremated, they are generally within an MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) casket, which when burnt emits 33kg’s of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is something we can quite easily avoid.
Before changing to MDF in the mid 1990’s, coffins were made from precious timbers, and then burnt away to nothing. Why not use a product that is made from recycled cardboard boxes, sugar cane waste and uses cornstarch to glue it all together. There is a company in Australia called LifeArt that can make a unique coffin for you and print anything on it! You could have a person’s favourite poem, a photo of their family, or even the VB logo if you really wanted. Natalie Verdon the Managing Director of LifeArt Australia states, “With cremation rates around 70 per cent in capital cities, it’s important that people have the option of reducing their own or their loved one’s carbon emissions.” An easy statistic to look at is that MDF coffins produce pollutant levels 213 per cent higher than the LifeArt coffins, which are made up of 97 per cent recycled fibres.
So let’s say you don’t like the idea of a cardboard coffin. Some people might not want the last memory of someone being inside a carboard box. There is an alternative option; a company in New Zealand called Return To Sender create beautiful coffins that are made from minimal materials, and are of a contemporary style, that include a woollen fleece mattress and a pillow. If you’re not interested in contemporary design, they also produce your typical everyday coffins, crafted from certified sustainably harvested New Zealand timbers.
There are lots of companies within Australia that are being innovative, and manufacturing these alternative coffins. These two companies are not alone in providing environmentally friendly products, and I hope this gives the alternative design more exposure. If you think about it, this concept won’t be ‘alternative’ for much longer. It will be mandatory as we run out of natural resources. Realistically, it’s about the responsible decisions we make now that will allow our next generation to live the way we have. And on that, it’s the very same responsible mindset that has produced these coffins, which can be applied to most products. Make the safe choice!
Huge thanks to Alice Fraser for drawing up these beautiful illustrations.