Following our Green Wins, join Emma and me as we bare our souls and reveal our Eco ‘Oopsies’. But as eco-shame is never the aim of our game, we also set our positive intentions with personal enviro challenges for the next 365 days of Shades of Green.
So, first, the waggy-ish finger – What Eco ‘Oopsies’ have Emma and I (Tamara) made in the last year in our attempts to live green?
Confessions of Shady Greens
Emma’s Eco Oopsies
Chauffeur Hire: I have been persuaded to share a taxi late at night, rather than get the bus, which I feel guilty about. (Tamara says: You are SHARING a taxi. That is fine. I absolve you.)
Flying McFly Face: Two of my holidays in 2019 have involved air-travel and I cannot pretend that I feel good about it. Before my holidays, Tamara and I discussed offsetting the carbon, which Tamara feels is greenwash. I can’t prove that the companies would have planted a tree with the £10, so I donated it to Portsmouth Green Party instead.
Single-Use Trees and Leaves: I do routinely forget to tell restaurants that I don’t want paper napkins, so I end up taking my unused napkin home and using it for emergency toilet paper if I haven’t washed my cloths. Otherwise, restaurants will just throw them in the bin because they don’t know what you’ve done to them.
Strike a Pose, Vogue: I bought three *new* items of clothing that were definitely not made from sustainable materials. I wish my swimsuit had been made from recycled materials and that the other items had been bought second-hand.
Tamara’s Eco Oopsies
Cat vs Food: My stupid cat has stupid ongoing urinary problems. She is now on stupid urinary food for life and though I have sourced it in a can and not in a stupid plastic pouch, it is not ethical meat. Gutted. Farewell to Yarrah‘s organic, grain free and MSC wet cat food!
Who Needs Teeth?: I am pleased to report that I have sourced zero waste toothpaste and floss. I have been using Toothtabs (with fluoride!) for a while now and am very happy with them. I’ve been buying them online and was so chuffed to buy them locally from Refill and Replenish – a fab mobile plastic-free shop run by the lovely Laura and Alice.
Fish are Friends, not Food: But my biggest oopsie is that I’ve been eating illicit fish here and there, mostly eating (delicious) sashimi at Sakura Southsea – and it’s not even ethical or MSC fish. It is a massive fail. And I dare to still consider myself a vegetarian. It is a complete identity crisis. Who even am I?
We learn from our mistakes and we are not about eco-shaming, so Emma – please lift us back up – what will you be focusing on for the next 365 days of Shades of Green?
365 Green Challenges
Emma’s Green Challenges for Shades of Green 365
A lot of the green progress I’ve made is a case of thinking more about what I need and do not need. That’s cut down on packaging, as well as the creation of new items. I want to continue this thoughtful thinking next year.
I’m taking a stand against presents. Over the next year, I’m going to be telling all of my friends and relatives that I’m not going to be buying them birthday or Christmas presents, nor do I wish to receive them. (Actually, I’m just linking them to this post.) I will be making exceptions for my niece and nephews, but in order to ensure they get something that they’ll cherish, I’ve asked their parents what they want.
I will continue to cut down on:
packaging, even stuff that can be recycled, by buying naked products
animal byproducts, by eating vegan meals more often
Water-saving is a challenge indeed as hopefully, I will be moving this autumn (hence the new mortgage green win in our previous post) and my new-fingers-crossed-home has a water meter. This is something I haven’t experienced since living in Tobago when we would bathe using a bucket. I am going to become a water-saving bully, I know it! I am taking inspiration from Emma’s post on ‘How to Eco-Hack Your Bathroom’ and her tips as her household are water-saving champs!
I have signed up to be #flightfree2020. I have warned my friends and family who reside abroad and am mentally preparing myself from now! Did you know that there is a new Sweedish word for the feeling of shame experienced when flying – flygskam. 2020 shall be flygskam free for me!
And so concludeth our anniversary introspection! Emma and I will report back on our green challenges in approx a years time in August-ish 2020 Till then, here’s to another 365 days of living in various Shades of Green!
And what of you Dear Reader, what are your green oopsies and challenges? – tell us in the Comments Section.
In the last two years since we started Shades of Green, Emma and I (Tamara) have become firm friends with our shared love of milkshakes so thick the straw remains upright, theatre-trips and of course, recycling!
In this two-part anniversary post, we will be celebrating our green wins, commiserating our ‘oopsies’ and setting challenges for the next 365 days of Shades of Green.
Today’s focus is on the individual changes and progress we have made since last year’s anniversary posts (check those out here and here) and so Emma and I discussour green wins over the past year.
Emma’s Green Wins
I’ve had a lot less food waste, not because, as was the case last year, I’ve been repurposing slightly out-of-date food, but simply because I’ve been eating more food before it goes “off”.
Compost + Recycling
Thanks to your insight and my mum joining the Zero Waste Portsmouth Facebook group, I’ve learned how to compost and recycle a lot more (Shameless plug for our next post – a refresh on everything that can be recycled in Portsmouth!). Also, thanks more to me wanting to lose weight than any green aims, I’ve been eating a lot more apples and carrots for snacks, rather than chocolate and crisps. And due to more careful shopping and better recycling/composting knowledge, we put our bin out on a monthly basis.
I’ve continued to prioritise bus travel and walking around Portsmouth over getting lifts from my parents. Although, I will admit that I have planned my social schedule slightly around when my mum will be using the car anyway. (“Hey Tamara, do you want to go to the cinema on Tuesday? Not because my mum is driving near Gunwharf anyway…”).
I’ve also created a portable zero-waste kit, a’la Tamara’s magic green backpack. I keep all of the stuff, bar my cloth bag and my water bottle, inside an old lunch box that can be used to transport leftovers home in. This goes with me everywhere: to the beach, to restaurants, to Disney World.
Emma, that is a*mazing! It is so important to notice and celebrate our daily achievements and success. You have made so many lasting changes and are generally kickin’ ass. Nice one dude.
Tamara’s Green Wins
Recycling – Cartons + Foils
As you may recall, until this February, I was taking a car-load of cartons every few months all the way to Chandlers Ford. But no longer, as there are now three carton recycling banks in the city! And the newest one is near Emma by Alexandra Park in Alex Way car park. *Happy dance*
I also took foils on those recycling runs and I am happy to say that I don’t even have to leave my house to recycle these now, as I am doing a serendipitous exchange with the lovely Sarah via ShareWaste. She drops off her organic waste on a weekly basis for my compost and takes my foils for recycling at St Mary’s Church, Fratton. Boom! The barter economy – well kinda!
Emma, as you know flying is our shared Achilles heel! I am pleased to report in the last year I travelled by train from Fratton to Amsterdam to visit the Dutchman’s family. The Eurostar cost me £40! Bargain! I did have the luxury of time – I travelled on a Wednesday and it took me basically all day. And Full Disclaimer – I flew home to Southampton.
1. A huge win that I am very proud of is sourcing an ethical mortgage that is actually cheaper than my current mortgage! I will soon be the holder of a mortgage with Coventry Building Society which is ranked 3rd best ethical and environmental record of 37 mortgage providers by the Ethical Consumer. CBS scored 13.5/20 compared to my current mortgage provider The Co-operative Bank which scores a depressing 7/20. I have been with Co-op Mortgages for ten years and had believed them to be super-duper ethical. I was not impressed when I realised that I had been completely taken in by greenwash, the curse of not doing my research. A mortgage is the largest financial investment I will ever make and I am so pleased to be putting my money where my mouth is.
3. Till last year, my Amazon boycott was very ad-hoc and convenience often won over values. For the last 9 months or so I simply ignore Amazon’s existence in my internet search results – a head-in-the-sand tactic that works for me. The Dutchman wants to watch some tv-shows on Amazon Prime, but that’s his problem. I now buy books second-hand from World of Books which is recommended by Ethical Consumer (though definitely not perfect as books I purchased were delivered wrapped in plastic. Sigh!)
1.Crisps! Oh, how I love thee! I had a short-lived love affair with Two Farmers crisps which come in home compostable packaging and even set up a little crisp-buying group with a fellow Zero Waster Emily. That has come to an end at no fault of Two Farmers or Emily. I have The Diabetes and crisps are now but a memory! I have made some kale crisps since The Diabetes Diagnosis as chickpeas are a bit too carb-heavy at this stage in my Diabetes Recovery Journey. The kale crisps were tasty but more like crispy seaweed than crisps!
But my proudest moment this year was repairing the underwire of my bra which had poked through and was trying to murder me. Usually, I put murderous bras in the rags donation but not this bra! I HATE sewing. It confuses me and gives me a headache. Yet I even sewed a little pad onto it to stop it rubbing under my armpit. I AM AMAZING!
Whew, that is a lot of positive vibes from the Shades of Green. This post has been such a joy to write, especially as I often experience eco overwhelm. Shades of Green has been such a positive focus in my depression recovery. But the flip side of this eco-coin is that try as we may, we are incredibly fallible in our green efforts. So tune in on August 23rd for the second part where Emma and I admit to our not-so-green oopsies and discuss our challenges for the year ahead.
And finally, Dear Reader, we love to hear from you – what are your green wins? – tell us in the Comments Section Let’s celebrate together, dudes!
Weigh Fill Pay Infographic provided by The Package Free Larder
EDIT: They did it! On 13th August 2019, The Package Free Larder successfully raised £43,765 with 905 supporters in 56 days. Watch this space for updates on this new not-for-profit plastic-free shop in Portsmouth.
Shades of Green readers were introduced to The Package Free Larder earlier this Spring when we wrote about their launch event. We promised more information on how to support this fantastic community-led project through their Crowdfunding campaign and dear Reader, their campaign is live and now is the time to donate, donate, donate!
The Package Free Larder (PFL) is a labour of love, borne out of trying to make a meaningful contribution to Portsmouth, a place I (Delphine) have been calling home for the last 4 years.
My foray into a zero-waste lifestyle started when I realised the amount of waste I was producing. Though I am aware of my plastic consumption and doing my best to reduce it, it is really challenging to live plastic-free or zero waste especially when you have children – I have two. This is what led me to start Zero Waste Portsmouth (ZWP) with the aim of finding like-minded people, share ideas and spread the message of leading a zero-waste lifestyle.
The Package Free Larder (PFL), at least to me is a natural extension of ZWP. There is a barrier to entry to leading a fully plastic-free / zero-waste lifestyle, which PFL is trying to address. The difficulty involved in buying plastic-free products is putting people off due to the effort it requires. PFL is trying to address this by being a one-stop-shop where people can buy commonly used food product and household items, all plastic-free.
It has been a long 10 months since our first community meet-up at Southsea Coffee, where I introduced the idea of starting a plastic-free store in Portsmouth. The meeting led the creation of a group of like-minded volunteers (now friends) who have helped me bring PFL closer to reality than ever before. Everyone involved in this has contributed their time, skills and money to get to the stage where we are today. I really hope this project is going to be successful, at least for the effort we have all put in.
Once open, PFL will not only be a store for your daily needs but it will also be an inclusive community space to show people how to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. Once the store starts to make a profit, we plan to invest the money back into community projects tackling plastic pollution.
The response from the Portsmouth community has been overwhelmingly positive. To date, we have raised more than £20,000 all from the donations made by people who want to see a positive change happen in their community. We still have a long way to go before we reach the target amount of £40, 000. I hope people reading this article can help us raise the money we need either by donating or by spreading the word about the project
To donate to the Package Free Larder’s Crowdfunding campaign, click here and for more information on PFL go here.
Follow us on social media:
Thank you, Delphine, for taking the time to update us on the Package Free Larder project. We at Shades of Green have donated some pennies and pounds and now Tamara won’t stop going on about how she is famous (see Instagram post below for evidence of her fame!)
At the time of writing, a huge £21,519 has been pledged to the Package Free Larder. This is 54% of its target and as an all-or-nothing Crowdfunding campaign, they must reach their target of £40, 000 by the deadline of August 6th or receive nothing.
So you see, even a small amount really will make a significant difference to the PFL receiving it’s funding or walking away with nowt. Please do donate now to enable this fantastic project to be made a reality.
Basically, when I (Emma) wrote that post, I was very much aware that the onus should not be on the individual visitor because the entity with the power to make real change is WDW itself. And they are doing a lot, don’t get me wrong, but they can always do better.
Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.
What is WDW doing to make itself more eco-friendly?
Disney does do a lot to make itself a greener place and has over the years, especially at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT theme parks educated guests about issues like conservation, renewable energy use, and animal welfare. (Around one-third of WDW’s property is a conservation area.) They also take time to drum this into employees during training and have donated millions of dollars to animal and conservation charities over the years.
They’ve had recycling bins all across property since at
least 2011 and their sanitation crew still hand sorts the rubbish bins to remove
recyclables. Their hotels are Green
Lodging-certified, which means that they are helping to conserve water and
energy, reducing waste, and educating the public.
They’re also doing a lot to reduce energy use by utilising energy-saving
fixtures, like florescent or LED bulbs. To be clear, Disney managed to save
enough energy to power their Animal Kingdom theme park for a year. And
they’ve created a Mickey-shaped solar panel field.
As mentioned above in our previous piece, they are committed to growing a lot of food on property, which they do using reclaimed water. However, Disney also helps to reduce food waste by distributing excess prepared food to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Their buses even run on a renewable fuel made from non-consumable food waste.
Recently, WDW has pledged to completely eliminate all single-use plastics by the end of 2019, which means that for the most part, we were served with cardboard/paper plates anddrinks came without lids or straws. (On the one occasion that we got a plastic bowl for our salad, I assume it was because that location hadn’t yet run out of the plastic bowls and they were just using up what they had.)
What could WDW do better?
In my ideal world, Disney would serve every counter-service meal with reusable cutlery and crockery, but I definitely understand why that wouldn’t work. People break things and metal knives would be unsafe and how would washing up on such a major scale be done? Also, I fully accept that it would be a logistical and health and safety nightmare to place meals and (most) snacks in reusable containers that people had brought in.
The best option would, I feel, be for WDW to use compostable food containers/cutlery and put a compost bin at all rubbish bin locations. Not only would this be a bonus for the environment, but Disney could use the soil produced for its on-site food production. Yes, it would take time for people to get used to, but so did the recycling bins and those were a great idea.
They could also encourage people to bring their own reusable
cutlery/bottles by offering a discount. Disney could even sell branded ones at
food locations as they do popcorn buckets and soda mugs. Also, Starbucks is
happy to fill my mug in the UK, so why can’t the Starbucks in Disney do that?
Anyway, so that’s my thoughts on the subject, but now I want
to hear from you. Are there any more green initiatives that you know Disney is
taking? What do you think Disney could do better? Let me know in the comments
You may not know this dear reader, but Shades of Green shares its name (quite by accident) with a Walt Disney World golf resort. In fact, every time I (Emma) Google our blog that is what comes up. Why am I telling you that? Because WDW is the subject of today’s blog. There’s no getting around it, taking a holiday in a place that is several thousand miles away and is a major tourist trap is hardly the greenest thing that I could do, but what can I say? I love Disney – I even worked there for a time – and I’m not going to stop going. So, last month I went. However, I did want to make my trip as green as possible and this is what I did to make that happen.
The only practical way to get to the USA is via plane, so I offset my flight’s carbon footprint. As it turns out, flying direct and in the economy cabin is better for the world than having a change or flying in premium/business/first class, which is good because I flew there direct and economy class. (Although, I did have a change on the flight back, which I didn’t think about until I’d booked it.)
I was never going to be able to take just hand luggage with me to the USA for three weeks, so I took a suitcase. Although I’ll admit it could have been a bit lighter because I over packed on cardigans for the evenings – two would have been enough – and I could have washed some clothes (underwear, socks) in the shower. (I am considering just taking a carry on next time because of this.) However, these are the things that I packed to make my trip greener:
water bottle: WDW is filled with water fountains, meaning that you never
have to buy a plastic water bottle or ask for a cup of ice water. Plus the
Chillys bottle (recommended by Tamara) kept my water cold even in the Florida
tote bag: While I didn’t buy a lot on my trip (two t-shirts and a postcard,
I think), I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to take a plastic bag at the
store. (No one batted an eye in WDW, but outside of Disney, cashiers were
really shocked when I kept refusing a bag for things like food and one even
tried to force me to take one because he’s already put my crisps in the bag.)
pants/ reusable menstrual pads: While this didn’t entirely cut my need for
tampons – I couldn’t wear these at water parks and I didn’t have the luxury of
changing my pants/pads
during the day, as I do at home – it really helped me cut down on the
disposable pads that I would have worn in the parks to avoid an accident while
in a two-hour line.
box: I took this to carry in snacks to avoid buying something with
packaging in the parks, but also to take back food that would be wasted at the
end of a meal.
straw: Given that I was generally drinking water, I didn’t have much of a
chance to use this. However, it did save me from taking a straw when we sat
down at a table service restaurant and I ordered a soda.
knife edge: I used this so that I wouldn’t have to take disposable cutlery.
Then, I washed it every night at our hotel. (My parents didn’t bring one, but
they did reuse the cutlery that they got on our first day for the rest of our
I took a few of these so that I wouldn’t have to use paper napkins. Each one
lasted about three days, before being put in the washing pile.
While in Orlando, I travelled on the hotel shuttle and WDW
transportation (buses, monorails, boats) with dozens of other people, so it was
just like using public transportation back here.
We took a taxi to and from the airport, but I did try to get
a shuttle. It was just too full by the time we got there and couldn’t
accommodate my mum’s wheelchair and the next one wasn’t for like an hour. Not
great when you’ve been up for 16 hours already.
I will admit that this was probably my greatest green failure. (It kind of wasn’t even my fault, but it was really annoying.) I didn’t choose the hotel for its eco standards, but rather price and proximity to WDW, but I figured all hotels must have the same basic guidelines of not changing your bed linen every night, having recycle bins, and not changing towels that were hung up on the rack.
When we got there I realised there were no recycling bins
but figured that it was okay because we could recycle stuff like the milk
bottles in WDW. (We just had cereal in our room each morning, which was more
eco than eating in the park or at the buffet.) However, their coffee cups were
the disposable kind, which is annoying because I was expecting a china cup.
Still, I left a note for the housekeeper (with a tip!)
asking them to leave the cups, as we would rinse and reuse, and to not empty
the bins unless they were full. If all, I’ve put in the bin is the flight tag
from my suitcase, it doesn’t need changing. When we got back, the housekeeper
had taken the note (and the tip!), but completely ignored my request by
replacing the cups and emptying the bins. They also, despite the eco-guidelines
that were in the hotel welcome folder, changed towels that I’d hung on the
rack. I had a little bit of a freakout that my mum found funny.
We worked around it by hiding the cups in the microwave and
putting all our rubbish in one bin, as opposed to using the kitchen and
bathroom one, but I couldn’t do anything about the towels. It still annoys me.
As we all know, one of the best ways to lower your eco-impact is through being careful with what you eat. Eating locally, choosing the option with low or no packaging, and eating fewer animal products all help to lower our carbon footprint.
Now, I ate vegan
about half the time and vegetarian
for the rest of the time. There are a lot more options than you might initially
suspect, especially if you seek out the sites I’ve linked for help.
As for packaging
free, that’s difficult in Disney. Cast members aren’t allowed to take things
like bottles or boxes from guests so they can’t place your vegan burger into
your lunch box or fill up your bottle with soda. There are ways to limit your
packaging though, including:
taking your own non-packaged snacks in
taking reusable cutlery, straws, bottles,
napkins, and boxes (for leftovers)
opting for your ice cream in a cone rather than
dining at table service restaurants (be warned,
this does take longer and will eat into your park day, which is why we only did
You might think it’s hard to eat local in WDW, but it’s
easier than you think. See WDW grows a lot of its produce on property and the
Living with the Land ride at Epcot shows you how they’re always looking for new
ways to grow food using less water, less soil, and utilising permaculture.
As mentioned above, I didn’t really buy anything when I was
in WDW. A couple of tops for me, but nothing for anyone else. Not even my
nephews and niece. (Sorry kids!) Also,
on a related note, I will sound like the sourest person in the world, but I’ve
never understood why adults buy other adults gifts from their holiday.
By limiting what I bought, I reduced the amount of packaging to just a couple of price tags and limited the amount (in a very small way) that Disney would have to replenish with brand new items largely made from virgin materials.
Well, that’s it from me on how to eco-hack your WDW holiday, but there will be a follow-up piece on how Disney is working to reduce its eco-impact. Now, I’d like to hear about any tips you have for making your WDW vacation greener. Let me know in the comments.
reusable menstrual Cup vs washable period pants and pads
Tamara vs Emma
tamara: The Menstrual Cup
My menstruation journey started when I (Tamara) was eleven years old and continues to this day. It has included bleeding through my trousers when travelling solo aged 16 on a flight to Trinidad, tying a sweater around my waist and hoping that no one would notice, to being put on the contraceptive pill to try to calm my cystic acne, to always being surprised by my period every month and never understanding the myriad of tampon and pad options available to me. Too much choice = overwhelm!
In my mid-20s, as I became aware of the environmental footprint of my period, I started to experiment with ‘alternative’ options. For a while, I used Natracare’s tampons and pads which are made from organic cotton and FSC and PEFC certified sustainable wood pulp. But I was the Goldilocks of periods -I was still generating waste every month and it just wasn’t right. I would often forget to stockpile when I saw them and so would often end up with a high street brand purchase.
My First Menstrual CUP
In the late 2000s, on impulse, I bought a menstrual cup for dirt cheap when a friend’s eco store closed down on Marmion Road.
A menstrual cup is a small silicone/ rubber cup that you insert like a tampon which catches and collects your menstrual blood. You empty the cup, rinse and reinsert and after each period clean it by boiling in water.
The cup I bought was very big and plastic-y and back then I was ever so squeamish about my body. Ah, past me had to unlearn so many anxieties caused by society. I used it off and on but just found it terribly uncomfortable, it slid down all the time and I was always hyper-aware of it when I was using it. It took me many years of alternating between disposable tampons and pads and this uncomfortable cup before I decided I’d had enough.
MY FAVOURITE CUP
Reader, I am a bloody idiot! (yes, pun intended). A few years ago, I finally did some research. I spent about 20 minutes internet searching ‘tilted cervix’ (which I was told I had at a cervical smear test) and ‘menstrual cup uncomfortable’ and soon realised the menstrual cup had evolved significantly since I bought my original cup many moons ago (yes, again pun intended!).
My period has been revolutionised by one small product: the Me Luna Shorty cup. For a vertically challenged person (ok fine, I’m short!), who has not birthed any babies and who has a tilted cervix, this very specific and highly affordable menstrual cup is perfect! I think it cost me about £15. It is comfortable, hygienic and waste-free and I have not looked back.
On writing this article, I realised I do not know how to dispose of it when it comes to the end of its life as it is made of Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) which can be used as an alternative to latex, silicone, PVC, or rubber. A quick internet search suggests recycling menstrual cups may be tricky. However, I feel the reusable aspect of the cup makes it a sustainable option. I messaged Me Luna to inquire about this. They confirmed that TPE can be recycled and suggested some creative upcycling at the end of the cups life.
One advantage of the TPE is that you can actually recycle it very well. In contrast to silicone rubber, the TPE can be melted down again. This is also practiced industrially. But you should always consider that a menstrual cup consists of only 10 grams of material. So if you drive to a collection point by car, you would have produced so much CO2 that the environment does not benefit from it. If you have no way to recycle the cup, then it depends on which country you live in, which is the most reasonable disposal. Within the EU, a menstrual cup can be disposed of with household waste because there are modern waste incinerators here.
Me Luna Facebook Response (April 9 2019)
From my personal perspective, I hands-down recommend using a menstrual cup if you have a uterus that sheds its lining once a month. But don’t be like me, do a bit of research first to find the right fit for you. I can’t believe I was such a ninny.
So Emma, have I convinced you to give the menstrual cup a try? I did look at buying reusable pads but I am so lazy – extra washing just seems like a hassle. How have you found it?
emma: Reusable Menstrual Pads and Pants
Hey Tamara, I also got my period aged 11 and ever since then I (Emma) have pondered how best to end the damn process altogether because I could not cope with the pain, the staining of clothes, and the inconvenience of it all.
I once got my period on a 12-hour flight to South Africa at age 12 and hadn’t packed any pads in my carry on. At 13, asked my mum if I could have a hysterectomy because I was in so much pain, which resulted in a hasty trip to the doctors for prescription painkillers that I was on for six years around my period. I didn’t honestly think about the eco-aspect of my period until my early 20s because I was far too concerned about the searing pain that I had every month. (If any younger period-havers are now freaking out, it did get better with age, but go see a medical professional if you have any worries.)
At roughly 23, I bought a menstrual cup online that was recommended for uterus owners under 30 who hadn’t given birth vaginally. And I had a similar first experience to Tamara, where I was like “this is uncomfortable”, except I could never really get it inserted properly at all. It has sat unused in a drawer ever since.
At 25, a friend started using Thinx period pants, which work by absorbing the blood into a secret chamber in the pants through a process that they scientifically explain on their site, but I believe is some sort of magic. They claim to hold between 0.5 and two tampons’ worth of blood depending on the style that you go for.
I was sceptical because I often am. Doesn’t it leak? Doesn’t it smell? She assured me that they didn’t and I took a shot because I trusted her. I ordered two pairs (they have bundles available for better value). And I was amazed. It was a freeing experience not having to worry about the pad shifting or my tampon leaking and ruining the lower half of my outfit.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you. They can leak and/or smell if you wear them for too long. (The same as with regular pads.) You need to change them every four to eight hours depending on your flow. If you’re using them in conjunction with tampons/cups, then you can probably stretch this out to a day.
REUSABLE MENSTRUAL pADS
Just last month, at a package-free larder event in Southsea, I also bought some reusable menstrual pads from Ngozi Sews, that work in the same way as Thinx, except you can use them in any underwear. Now, I’m covered for every day of my period and I don’t have to buy disposables anymore.
wash-a-dub-dub, pants in the tub
“What about washing them?”, I can hear Tamara cry. Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s really simple.
Soak them after using to rinse off the majority of the blood. I soak them in the “greywater” that we use to flush the toilet in our house. (I realise that is a weird as fuck statement, so here’s a blog post to explain.)
Wash them at 40 degrees or lower without fabric conditioner (it affects the absorbency) and then air dry. You can put them safely in with the rest of your washing, but I toss mine in with a darks wash just to be safe.
Now, how should they be disposed of? Well, I haven’t had to dispose of any of my items yet, but I believe that you should wash them and put them in with the “rags” bag for charity shops.
I’ve found out that you should ‘deconstruct’ the pads or pants first, to increase recyclability. Please see this post for more info.
One of the (many) reasons we love our reusables is the money-saving aspect. Once purchased, they can last years, if not a lifetime. Periods cost money. For many, this cost can be debilitating and dehumanising. Following sterling work by period charities such as the Red Box Project, the Government has recently announced that free sanitary products will be made available to secondary schools and colleges.
But why stop there? Anna T, a lovely Shades of Green reader, emailed in with the fantastic idea for secondary schools to introduce students to reusable sanitary towels and nappies by incorporating the making of these items into Design + Technology and Textiles lessons.
The sanitary products would be something that young girls can take home, or donate to the period poverty cause. In the long term, hopefully, this will become mainstream and making disposable sanitary products the alternative.
The nappies could be donated to the food/baby bank which would really help low-income households as disposable nappies are very expensive and not good for our environment.
I really believe that some of the other benefits would include boosting skills for young people, understanding and tackling period poverty, help demystify periods for all genders, and positively contribute to our community.
Anna T. (Shades of Green reader)
Thank you, Anna, for writing in with your thoughts. Locally, earlier this year, Zero Waste Portsmouth and Nina of Ngozi Sews hosted a free make-your-own-reuseable-pad workshop. Get workshops like these into schools and empower and educate our young people. This is the future, people!
A note: This article was written by two cis women and we would really like to invite any trans men or non-binary people who would feel comfortable discussing any green or eco period products that they use to get in touch for a future article. You can speak anonymously if you wish or we can link to your socials, business, etc, as we do work with all other contributors.
Welcome to the continuation of my personal investigation into Green Death. For the last few months, I (Tamara) have been trying to figure out what is the ‘greenest’ option for my funeral and body disposal as well as generally empowering myself with end-of-life research and planning. I have spoken to funeral directors, cemetery staff, visited a natural burial site and even seen ‘behind the curtain’ of two local crematoriums.
However, trying to figure out which is the most earth-friendly option sent me spiralling down the internet rabbit hole. Dudes, I have to admit I got bogged down with stats and info on energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions in body disposal. I opened ALL the links and it was tab city all up in here!
So, as this is about my personal green journey, I hope you will enjoy my statistic-lite ramblings on Body Disposal and feel free to do your own due diligence if anything sparks your interest, and let me know what you find in the comments below.
The Demystification of Body Disposal Options
To be buried or to be cremated, that is the question! Actually, there
are a few other interesting options I considered. But I’ll start with the most
traditional option of burial.
The Traditional Option: conventional Burial
In my introductory post on Green Death which you can read about here, I visited the South Downs Natural Burial Site and found it an inspiring and peaceful place. Elements that appealed to me such as the rough and ready nature of the site, the lack of headstones and grave adornment and the openness to coffin-free burial are not features that will appeal to all – I’m thinking of my mother and mother-in-law particularly here. A friend of mine spoke to me about their in-law’s burial in a Hampshire churchyard a few years ago – the family viewed a traditional coffin, headstone and all the conventional add-ons as being the respectful, loving and dignified choice. Being able to visit the grave has also been essential in their grieving process.
Green space in Portsmouth is an ecological and emotional necessity on our densely populated island. Portsmouth’s cemeteries are oases of calm amid our urban landscape – the working cemeteries of Milton Road and Kingston and the historic Highland Road cemetery offer green and reflective spots to stroll and for the bereaved to visit loved ones. However, as Portsmouth is so densely populated, I have never really considered it as an option for myself or my family, especially as we do not have any particular leaning towards traditional burial.
This impression was reiterated when I met with a Portsmouth cemetery staff member to talk through the burial process. With approximately 20,000 burial spots available, Portsmouth’s two cemeteries could be full in approx 20 years.
Unlike at the natural burial site, my visit and questions were unusual to cemetery management who are more used to dealing with funeral directors. This was made clear by management’s strong preference that a funeral director is used by the bereaved, with some religious exceptions.
Family cannot be involved in the grave preparation with only trained
staff allowed to lower the body or ashes into the ground. Use of a shroud or
alternative coffin-free funeral would be at the discretion of the cemetery
manager and cremated remains must be buried in a wooden casket.
I left much more informed and very clear that this would not be the right option for me. There are some faiths where the deceased must be buried – as an agnostic, I am happy to leave those spots in Portsmouth’s cemeteries to those who prefer traditional burial and require it in the next 20 years.
GreenDeathPros: Both Portsmouth’s cemeteries are located within the city. This means minimal emissions in transporting my body and the mourners, and for my local friends and family to visit my graveside over the years. As my husband has expressed the desire to have a spot to visit, a clearly marked graveside for the duration of the plot lease is a positive.
GreenDeathCons: Portsmouth cemeteries are running out of space and so I cannot justify being buried there. The leaching of toxic embalmed fluids into the soil and waterways can prove a danger to groundwater. Fuel and energy would be used for the long-term maintenance of my grave and the cemetery, including the use of fertilizer and pesticides. As DiY funeral elements are discouraged and the use of coffins are preferred with shroud usage unconfirmed, the element of involvement in the process would be missing.
Eco Burial Tip: Go for low-impact elements that are within your control such as a cardboard coffin, local (or no) flowers and a monument (or no) made from British stone.
the popular option: Cremation
Now cremation is another familiar concept to most of us and
is the most popular body disposal option with 77% of all deaths in the UK
resulting in cremation. Judging
the environmental impact of cremation vs burials is not one I have found easy. Cremations
use fossil fuel energy to incinerate the body and release carbon emissions and
pollutants into the environment. However, burial takes up valuable land space
and with an ever-growing population, we certainly can’t all be buried!
A side note is that I intensely disliked all the cremation funerals I have attended so far due to the conveyor-belt vibe. Crematoria are busy places, for example, Porchester Crematorium is a high-volume crematorium with more than 3000 cremations take place there a year. Most crematorium services are only 20-30 minutes long, though some offer the option to book a longer slot (at a cost).
As cremation is my mother’s top choice for her body disposal, I needed to gain some clarity and address my conveyor-belt concerns. I visited my two local crematoriums – Porchester Crematorium and The Oaks in Havant, both of whom have an open-door policy, an attitude I found very refreshing in comparison to my cemetery visit.
I was given a tour around the facilities which included ‘behind the curtain’. My friend Chris, who has been with me on my death planning journey, accompanied me on this behind-the-scenes tour of Porchester Crematorium. She remarked how comforting it was to see the process, as both her parents were cremated there. Reader, I recommend everyone does a behind-the-scenes tour of a crematorium. It was so interesting, educational, respectful and not at all frightening or macabre.
Both Chris and I found the process of cremation fascinating and were walked through the stages. Here’s a debrief of the cremation process:
After the committal – the concluding rite of a funeral service – the crematorium has 72 hours within which to cremate the body.
The body is cremated in the cremation chamber (also known as a crematory, crematorium, cremator or retort) which is essentially a large industrial furnace.
Using fossil fuels (most likely natural gas), the cremator is pre-heated to around 1,400 – 2,000 degrees Farheight.
The coffined body is slid into the cremation chamber where it will self-ignite, taking approximately 2-3 hours for the body’s soft tissue and the coffin to burn, leaving the remains of bone fragments and metals.
Emissions are filtered through a flue system, collected in barrels and then disposed of as hazardous waste or recycled (though I am not sure how it is recycled or if that was green wash).
A magnet is used to collect metals from the bone fragments and the remains are then ground into ‘ash’. I had always assumed the body burns away completely and that the ash is like when you burn a wood fire. Boy was I mistaken – the ash is essentially ground-up human bones.
But back to the environmental considerations around cremation – technological advancements mean mercury and carbon emissions can be more effectively filtered out and by 2020, as part of the Oslo-Paris Commission (OSPAR) agreement on eliminating mercury emissions from crematoria, all crematoria within the UK (roughly 240 facilities) will need to have a zero emissions rate. This means either installing entirely new cremation equipment, and/or integrating mercury abatement systems.
With Environment Agency targets, regular monitoring and reporting and strict rules for crematoria to limit emissions, mercury emissions seem to be contained to an acceptable level.
The crematoriums can even utilise the heat generated by their
cremators through a waste heat recovery system. I was inspired by the story of
Redditch Crematorium – in 2011 ish, when installing new equipment to meet the laws to reduce mercury emissions,
they also installed a system to divert the waste heat, produced by the
cremators that escapes from the cremator chimney, to heat a nearby swimming
pool, reducing the leisure centre’s gas bill by aver 40%, equating to a saving
of about £15,000 a year.
I was delighted, therefore, to read The Oaks have a heat exchange system but was disappointed to hear that it was not in use. Talks have been ongoing for four years with the nearby hospital to utilise and heat the hospital but I am not confident given The Oaks has been open for five years!
In the UK, the body must be cremated within 72 hours after
the service of committal. This enables the crematorium to ‘hold over’ coffins,
which basically is a more efficient way of utilising the energy generated
through the pre-heating and using of the cremators by putting through as many
cremations in one day as possible, rather than cremating the bodies on the same
day of the funeral.
After the cremation, metals are separated from the cremated
remains for recycling. This can include hip joints, pins/ nails from the
coffins and precious metals. Porchester Crematorium raise £5,000 to £6,000 a
year for charity from recycling these metals.
I was interested to learn that the cremated remains are basically
everything that is left in the cremator at the end of the cremation process
following the removal of any metal and is essentially barren material. Though scattering
of ashes takes up no land space and ashes can be buried in urns made from 100%
biodegradable materials, in large amounts and scattered in sensitive
ecosystems, there is an ecological impact to consider.
Green Death Pros: Disposing of my body by cremation means there is minimal land usage and there is no long-term maintenance of a grave and cemetery. Regulations mean mercury emissions are being more effectively filtered and with innovations in Waste Heat Recovery systems, the heat generated can be utilized somewhat. The Service Hall at The Oaks was simply breathtaking with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the semi-natural woodland beyond. And they have bees!
Green Death Cons: At the end of the day (no pun intended), I can’t get away from the fact that cremation involved high energy consumption with the burning of natural gases and fossil fuels that releases carbon emissions and pollutants into the environment. Added to this, most crematoriums insist that the body is in a coffin when incinerated. The Oaks in Havant was open to a body being cremated in a body pouch/ shroud if it is sealed from any leaks and mounted and secured onto a hard-combustible board.
Eco Cremation Tip:
Best to dress the body in natural fibres. The more synthetic the clothes, the
Bequeath My Whole Body to Science
I am very tempted by the idea of bequeathing my body to science
as this practical use of my corpse will enable medical students and researchers
to study anatomical sciences. If my body can be of use after I’m gone, well why
not! Surgeons gotta learn somehow! And to parrot my dear marmar ‘When you’re
dead, you’re dead!’
Conveniently, I could donate my body fairly locally to the Centre for Learning Anatomical Sciences (CLAS) at Southampton University. Here my body would be embalmed and then utilised for anatomical examination. When that is complete, the University of Southampton can arrange and pay for my remains to be cremated and have my ashes returned to my next-of-kin, or to be scattered in Southampton Crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance. If I wanted a private funeral, they will return my remains to my next-of-kin/ executor.
Green Death Pros: There are a plethora of pros in choosing to bequeath my body to science: benefiting research and humanity, being useful even after I’m dead, a no/low cost cremation with my next-of-kin receiving my ashes. If I changed my mind, withdrawing consent is simple and easy.
Green Death Cons: There is no guarantee that my bequeathed body will be accepted post-death, so I’d need to have a back-up plan. I also couldn’t both donate large organs for transplantation and also bequeath my body to science. My hubby, The Dutchman, considers it more valuable to donate his organs for transplantation than to donate his body to science – but his organs are probably healthier than mine, to be fair! My donated body would be embalmed, which I am not keen on, and (most likely) cremated. Donating my body to science means my friends and family may miss having a traditional funeral with the body present. A contender, but I am not completely sold on the option for myself.
THE WILDCARD OPTION: Alkaline Hydrolysis
Also known as “Water Cremation”, “Flameless
Cremation” or ‘Aquamation’, alkaline hydrolysis is a new body disposal system
and a challenger to flame cremation.
My basic understanding, which comes straight from…surprise, surprise….my death guru, Ask a Mortician’s Caitlin Doughty, is that the body is placed in resomation machine that contains a high-pressure mixture of 95% water and 5% lye (potassium hydroxide/sodium hydroxide) which is heated to 365 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to the 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit of flame cremation).
The process, which takes about three hours, mimics the chemical decomposition the body would undergo if buried and leaves behind bone fragments (about 30% more than a flame cremation) and an inert neutralised liquid of amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts, with no human DNA. The bone fragments that remain are ground down to a white ash and returned to the family, while the liquid can be repurposed as fertilizer or flushed down the drain.
The eco credentials (according to Caitlin’s sources of the Funerals Consumer Alliance), alkaline hydrolysis uses an eighth of the energy used in flame cremation.
However, though legal in 16 American states as well as three Canadian provinces, it has yet to reach the UK, though applications have been made.
“A public crematorium operated by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council at Rowley Regis, central England, was the first to receive planning permission to offer the process but in March 2017 the local water utility, Severn Trent Water, refused the council’s application for a “trade effluent permit” because there was no water industry standard regulating the disposal of liquified human remains into sewers.”
‘Ask a Mortician’s Caitlin talks about the misconceptions behind water cremation here and here and the BBC has a fascinating essay on ‘Dissolving the Dead‘.
Green Death Pros: Water cremation results in lower emissions than flame cremation and also uses fewer fossil fuels.
Green Death Cons: It’s new technology and regulation hasn’t yet caught up. The eww factor of disposing of the inert liquid is a barrier that will need overcoming.
This raised the question for me about the disposal of the blood and bodily fluids removed from a body in the embalming process. In the USA, according to my guru and LA mortician, Caitlin, it is disposed of down the drain. Try as I might, I couldn’t find out what happens to the blood and fluids in the UK. Methinks it is probably the same!
So, dear Reader, you might be wondering, where am I in my green death process? There are a few more factors I need to consider around the death acrutements – coffins, embalming, flowers, monuments/ remembrance but the actual body disposal is the main decision. Now I have done my due diligence, I’m taking some time to consider my options, chat with my family about what I have discovered and I will report back soon.
In the meantime, as you wait with bated breath for my concluding post, check out these upcoming events.
Green Death Events in Pompey
May 18th 2019: Free Screening of Griefwalker film at The Coastguard Studio
June 4th 2019: Nights of Grief and Mystery tour at The Groundlings Theatre
November 14th 2019: Greener Funerals with Emma Collins at Green Drinks Portsmouth at The Southsea Village
Grief Whisperer Emma Collins, is offering a free screening of the film, Griefwalker about the life of Stephen Jenkinson on May 18th at The Coastguard Studio. Click here to book a free ticket and for more information about the event.
Jenkinson, whose work in palliative care and wonderings about what might be in the way of people dying well in our culture has been very meaningful in Emma’s life. He is the author of Die Wise, the founder of the Orphan Wisdom School in Ontario, and who for five years headed the counselling team Canada’s largest home-based palliative care facility.
And finally, Green Drinks Portsmouth 14th Nov @ The Southsea Village (back room). We’ll be joined by Emma Collins who will be inviting us to dive into a discussion about what we might want to do about our own and our loved ones bodies when we die. We will be exploring the options for greener funerals and the rules about how caring for our loved ones after they die, both in the immediate hours and days after and our options for where and how we bury our dead. We will explore the costs associated with funerals, both environmental as well as financial, and wonder about whether having greater involvement with caring for the bodies of those we love might support us in our grieving and loss.
 According to the Cremation Society of Great Britain 77% of deaths (in 2017) resulted in cremation. https://www.havant.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Infrastructure%20Delivery%20Plan.pdf Enjoy this solo footnote. Never to be seen again.
It’s that time of year again, dear reader. The local elections are less than a week away and all of us at Portsmouth Green Party have been fighting away to get you a Green councillor to represent you and hold the main parties to account.
With that in mind, I (Emma) sat down with the PGP’s Fratton ward candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase to find out why he’s running and what he would do to improve Portsmouth for its residents and the world at large.
Hey Tim, I was wondering if you could tell the readers of Shades of Green why you’re running for office?
I decided to get involved in politics and local campaigns after seeing worrying signs of environmental and social breakdown. With my background in science and engineering, I am also well aware that, without drastic change, climate breakdown is a huge problem. The good news is that pressure from campaigners can be effective and real improvements can be made.
I learned so much from authors like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein about how current politics isn’t working for most people, so I aim to be an independent voice in politics that is a change from business as usual.
That sounds like just what we need. Now, I know that PGP have been out in Fratton talking to people to find out the main problems they have in the area. Can you tell me what those are?
Based on our survey, the main concerns of residents’ are:
Residents also face the danger of illegal levels of air pollution, which causes a wide range of health problems. All of this is against a backdrop of devastating cuts to local services under the banner of austerity.
That’s just terrible. So, what would you do to address these problems?
I talked to the local policing team and they heavily depend on information provided by the public. I would help coordinate residents’ concerns with the police and other council services. On cleanliness, we need to provide more convenient recycling and waste disposal options, rather than having to travel to Port Solent or pay steep fees for waste collection. I would work to coordinate council services to keep the streets clean.
On air quality, I have been campaigning for a number of years with the #LetPompeyBreathe group. I have been pressuring the council to make significant improvements, beginning with producing a realistic plan. Unfortunately, the council has been slow in producing results. Since we need to transition away from private car usage, we need good transport alternatives, including better bus services. We also need to investigate the feasibility of introducing a charging clean air zone as quickly as possible.
Why is the Green Party the party to address these issues?
Many people are disillusioned with mainstream politics because it only offers superficial change. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The Green Party is different because of its emphasis on long term planning, while valuing people and the environment. This has allowed it to be an earlier adopter of many beneficial policies that have since gone mainstream.
That’s a really good point. If I wasn’t already a member, I’d join. Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers and the people of Portsmouth?
I’ve been encouraged by canvassing feedback and the hard work of our campaign team. This means we have a good chance of getting a first Green councillor for Portsmouth. We can win and we can hold the mainstream parties to account.
Well, there you have it folks. If you care about Portsmouth, if you care about our planet, and if you’ve had it with politics as usual, get out there and vote Green on May 2. If you’d like to read more from Tim, Tamara did an interview with him about air pollution in Portsmouth, which is an important (and scary) read.
Changing the world. It can be as simple as looking around your local community and not just seeing what could be better but actually doing something about it.
Delphine Laveyne and The Package Free Larder Committee members are exemplars of being the change you want to see. Coming from France, Delphine has firmly embedded herself as a leader in the green community in Portsmouth.
In 2017, on meeting like-minded sustainers at regular monthly event Green Drinks Portsmouth, she set up Zero Waste Portsmouth, enabling those interested in responsible consumption to meet once a month to share ideas, tips and tricks on living zero waste, ethically and sustainably. It was here she talked of her dream of a one-stop packaging free community run shop. I know ‘cause I (Tamara) was there! Last month, that dream took a major step towards becoming a reality with the launch event of The Package Free Larder, hosted by The Southsea Village.
It was an absolute blast! Emma, her lovely Mum, and I hung out and nibbled on dirty fries whilst listening to local environmentalists and activists speak passionately to a packed-out audience.
Serena Cunsolo, marine biologist and PhD researcher at the University of Portsmouth educated us about micro-plastics in the ocean. (Did you know that there is a Great Pacific Garbage Patch three times the size of France between California and Hawaii? I didn’t and I was horrified.) She also spoke of the effects closer to home, of microplastics in wastewater in Portsmouth. It highlighted to me the urgent need to look into my closet to see what my clothes are actually made of.
Clare Seek from Plastic Free Portsmouth (amongst her many ventures!) spoke about the growing plastic-free community in Pompey and of the importance of educating on how to reduce and then reduce some more.
Daniel Nowland of The Southsea Deli spoke about his ethical food ethos and sustainable food systems. Listening to him inspired me to encourage my household to eat less but better – specifically cheese, as we get through a lot of it!
Emma and I got a taste for local produce and went into a buying frenzy: purchasing plastic-free floss from Wild Thyme, hand-made pasta from Antica, package-free rice and coffee beans from Refill and Replenish, and reusable menstrual pads from Ngozi Sews. And we heard from Connie, Ella, and Delphine of the Package Free Larder Committee about the journey from a kernel of an idea to the reality the Package Free Larder will be.
The work that has gone into getting the Larder this far is incredible. In September 2018, Delphine hosted a meet-up for interested parties at Southsea Coffee and in 6 months The Package Free Larder was born. There is still a way to go but the foundations have been laid. The next step is to raise funds and source a property for this bricks and mortar community-led venture.
This fantastic community project needs YOU! For this to get off the ground and become a success, it needs people across Portsmouth to support it – financially, with time and resources, and through social media. But (in my opinion) mostly finances.
The Package Free Larder will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the next few months and I will be there to support them. I hope you will too. Go to their website here and subscribe to their mailing list to be kept in the loop.
Let’s put our money where our mouth is. Let us be the change.
Tamara’s Takeaway To-Dos:
Research and buy GuppyFriend bags (assuming it isn’t greenwash) for my synthetic fibre clothes
Rediscover buying clothes at charity shops (I hate clothes shopping generally but love charity shops!)
*This post is in honour of Mike Wines, Green Party activist and an all-round good guy. We valued your dedication to the environment, your willingness to stand up as Portsmouth Green Party coordinator and council candidate, and your dry sense of humour. You are missed. *
(Disclaimer: Unsurprisingly, the following post is about death and funerals. Please be mindful and look after yourself. I am going to say it like I see it, so be prepared!)
Let us begin at the end
I am going to die. My loved ones will one day die. The people sat chatting around me in this café will all eventually die. You too, dear reader, will die.
Why are we so surprised by this? I (Tamara) don’t see any point in beating around the bush about this inexorable fact and I don’t understand why death is such a taboo subject; to only be discussed when one is very old or in the process of actually dying.
I think now is the perfect time to consider the shape of my
funeral. I am not ill, and neither is anyone close to me. The Mothers of the
Dutchman and me are in good health and happily living their lives. While
friends procreate, I have the epic responsibility of a cat. The time is now!
So many of my friends have no idea what they or their parents and partners would want if they became ill or died suddenly. This baffles me but then I grew up with an outspoken Trinidadian mother whose catchphrase whenever death planning is mentioned is ‘When you’re dead, you’re dead. Just burn me – or whatever is the cheapest.’ As you can see, we don’t stand on ceremony in my family!
Death shopping is a thing. Even in
death we are consumers and I am determined that my death and body disposal
should be as earth-friendly as possible. When the Dutchman and I wrote our
wills, about ten years ago now, we stated our preference for an ‘environmental
funeral’ and thought no more about it. But recently I realised it would be
useful for my friends and family to have specifics as to what I mean by ‘an
Dear Reader, I went so far down the
rabbit hole with this one, this blog post will be in two parts!
My Initial Green Death Requirements
I want a funeral with friends and
family talking and laughing. Lots of alcohol and speeches. Basically, a raucous
wake that will make my neighbours complain. No whispering allowed. The Victorian style funeral with a black
hearse and pallbearers in top hats does not appeal to me at all.
I want it to be earth-friendly with minimum impact. I don’t want it to be a conveyor belt of death and whispers. No embalming (unless absolutely necessary). I’d love my body to stay at home. Minimum death purchases – no plastic flowers, no tombstone, no crap. Locally sourced food and drink. A biodegradable coffin made in the UK.
So armed with my list, I started my
research…and immediately fell into the rabbit hole that is the internet –
tabs galore were opened, never to be closed. I decided to take myself out of
the internet and talk to real people with knowledge about this funeral
Friendly Funerals R Us
I visited a local funeral director who kindly talked through my many random questions and allowed me to a look round the viewing room – a subdued space with low lighting and a strategically placed box of tissues. I left understanding why so many of us use funeral directors when we are amid a loss – they are experts in the mysterious ways of the funeral world, whilst most people will organise only one or maybe two funerals in their lifetime. I can imagine it is incredibly soothing to know that it will run like clock-work with minimal stress to the family.
Not for me – I left knowing what
they were selling wasn’t what I wanted. But I am aware I must be mindful of
what I am asking of my loved ones who may not be able to do the DIY funeral I’d
prefer. If my mother decides she needs the support of a funeral director, I
hope she will go to a local independent that is understanding of my
environmental wishes. I want more than just an eco-coffin, I want a
lifestyle…or should that be…deathstyle?
There are so many misconceptions
surrounding the funeral industry. Did you know you don’t need to engage the
services of a funeral director anyway? A deceased body does not have to be
embalmed within the UK and can be transported via any vehicle – it doesn’t have
to be a hearse, if the vehicle is safe, a suitable size and the body is covered
– you are good to go!
My biggest learning curve was the
costs associated with a funeral –so unnecessary, so much gentle up-selling and
so very very expensive. I hadn’t realised how much a coffin could cost. You
gotta have money to die.
Lay ME in Lavender
To bury or not to bury, that is the
burning question! I have always thought burial was an unsustainable option due
to the sheer impact on the land, waterways and green spaces. The earth is for
the living, so why take up precious land space once I’m dead and with an ever-growing
population, we certainly can’t all be buried!
Being pumped full of chemicals for
short-term preservation which will leach into the soil and water, being housed
in a coffin which could last longer than my decomposing body – nah mate, burial
isn’t for me.
Until I went on a road trip to the South Downs Natural Burial Site with my wonderfully open-hearted friend Chris. We met the manager, Al Blake, in a dusty cluttered office for a quick-fire round of conversation and questions. It couldn’t have been more different from my visit to the friendly funeral director. Here was a natural burial expert in walking boots and jeans who understood my distaste for the conveyor-belt style funeral, wasn’t fazed by the request to have the body at home and has a database of natural burial and DIY funeral friendly Funeral Directors.
At the South Downs Natural Burial
Site, embalming and cremated ashes are not allowed. To be buried here, my
coffin or shroud must be 100% bio-degradable. My unmarked grave will be dug by
hand and my body taken to its resting place on a hand-drawn bier or horse-drawn
cart. It will be the only funeral that day. My loved ones can lower me into the
earth. When I asked this of the friendly funeral director, I was told this
wouldn’t be possible due to health and safety. At the natural burial site, it
seems anything is possible.
Chris and I wander down to the Natural Burial Site, originally a conifer and beech plantation planted about 40 years ago by the Royal Navy, now being replanted with species that belong on the South Downs. The re-stocked woodland will consist of native species that may eventually be coppiced and harvested for rural industry and wood fuel. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management where trees and shrubs are cut back to ground level periodically to stimulate growth.
We meet ‘Young Chris’ who is
hand-digging a grave under the cover of a flappy tarpaulin. This is too good an
opportunity to miss and I leap down into the grave. It doesn’t feel scary or
weird or morbid. It smells of damp earth and chalk – not surprising,
considering the burial site is on chalk land. With both cemetery and national park
status and the whole park belonging to Earth Trust, the 1985 bodies buried here
aren’t going anywhere. Most natural burial sites shallow bury but here they dig
deep into the chalk. Al comments that it might not be the most eco but
with the local wildlife he considers it the most secure option.
There are considerations – I know my Mum will hate the steep walk down to the burial site. On a wet day, the chalk path is slippery. My guests will need to be prepared to rough it with walking shoes and sticks. But I don’t care – this is the place where you can stand in your sorrow and no one will rush you. I am in love.
But the price pulls me short. Back to reality. Can I really justify £2000 to be buried here? Holy guacamole, that is a lot of money. A cremation at Porchester Crematorium costs £615. Cost is my one big concern and I am still mulling it over. I will continue my death investigation into cremation and other body disposal options before I make my decision.
Let me put it this way – it’s going
to take a green death extravaganza to top this.
Have you visited a natural burial site? What were your impressions? And where do you stand on funeral directors and the associated costs of death? Let us know in the Comments section.
The Second Part of my Green Death investigation will be published at the end of April. Probably. Who knows?!
Promoted by T Sheerman-Chase, 99 Pretoria Road, PO4 9BD on behalf of Portsmouth Green Party. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other party, agency, organization, employer or company.