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Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Bereavement Services

Greening Cremation Part 2

On the 12th May 2021, OpusXenta and the FBCA presented the fourth in a series of webinars to focus on the impact that burials and cremations are having on the environment.  We are passionately driving toward the environmental conversation and looking at what actions we can all take in the Bereavement Services to make a change for the better. Continuing our discussions with suppliers and service providers in the sector, we heard presentations from DFW regarding Electric Cremators, The Faunus Group and the advancement of decomposition as a positive impact solution as well as insights from Funeral Service Insights presented by Leverton & Sons. 

Environmental change is required in all aspects of our lives, from structural change to how we deliver services down to individual lifestyle changes. Our Climate Emergency Webinar Series has painted a picture of the significant challenge’s our bereavement sector is facing to keep up with the rapidly evolving environmental agenda we are all facing. Watch the series below:

Please click below for the Webinar Presentation

Webinar Q&A

Q: Electric Cremators - does the super heated floor make ashes recovery difficult then? How much ash residue is likely to be un recoverable?
A: It is the same amount of Ashes. Because it is a more gentle process so less flow taking away ashes. What melts on the floor is very little. That is why we only need an extra floor claening each 600 cremations.

Transcript

Jenny Eagles

Great. OK, well, we're one minute in. So let me hand over to Scott Storey from OpusXenta. He will introduce this webinar for us. Thank you, Scott.

Scott Storey

Hi. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining me for today's event. I'm Scott Storey, head of UK Operations at OpusXenta. My role today is to facilitate our webinar, The Climate Emergency: Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Bereavement Services, Part two. We've got around 45 minutes of information to share with you today, after which we'll have some additional time to take questions. As we go through today, please do add any questions that come to mind in the Q&A section, which you can access from the bottom, towards the bottom of your screen. You can also chat with us and your fellow attendees via the chat button or window.

Scott Storey

I have some colleagues online with me today as well who will be monitoring that chat area. So if you have any issues at all, please let us know in the chat as well and we can try and assist. Finally, as is the case with all of our webinars, today's event is being recorded and we'll make that recording available to everyone who registered or attended over the next few days.

Scott Storey

So in our last webinar, we started to hear from some of the service providers and partners identifying aspects of best practice today that will help in exploring alternative technologies, as well as working to create benchmarks and activities, and agreed standard definitions.

Scott Storey

Today, we'll hear from three more suppliers and service providers. Our panel for today's webinar includes Simon Holder, founder and CEO of the Faunus Group. Simon's passion is rooted in the scientific and fact based development of sustainable and environmentally positive practices and alternatives for the industry. The group at present has two companies operating in the funeral sector, The Woodland Burial company and Natural Transitions. The Faunus Group are currently finishing the development of the next generation in body disposal technology, offering for the first time a viable alternative to the current options of cremation and burial.

Scott Storey

Also joining us is Dennis Jacobs. Since 2016, Dennis has been a member of the DFW Europe Sales and Customer Advisor Team. He has over 25 years of experience in different fields, as a planner, project manager, purchase manager and account manager. Dennis believes that in our profession, the suppliers build up a relationship with the customer and you enter into that relationship for a minimum of 20 years: the lifespan of the DFW Cremators. Dennis believes that his key roles are helping his customers, advising them and doing as you promise in order to ensure the relationship stays strong.

Scott Storey

Oh. Technical difficulties. We're also joined by Hannah. Hannah Leverton. Hannah manages the communications for Leverton & Sons, and supports her sister Pippa, and cousin Andrew, both directors of the family firm. Founding members of SAIF Leverton's is an independent family run firm since 1789 and is based in North London. Although Hannah grew up popping into the office and helping a family with filing from a young age. She didn't really formally join the firm until 2010. After university, she worked in marketing and events, leading her to set up her own business, which still operates to this day.

Scott Storey

Since then, it became apparent she could help in the communication side of the business. Having the understanding of the ethos and legacy of Leverton's meant she could support the firm, especially in the digital marketing movement that was taking place. Leverton's has been a pioneering funeral directors for some time, especially in the provision of eco friendly funerals, and has won awards for it's initiatives, including creating the UK's first all electric hearse. She's proud to work alongside such a dedicated and honorable group of people who genuinely care about the people they look after and the environmental sustainability of the profession.

Scott Storey

And finally today, Brendan Day. Brendan is secretary and executive officer of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, and Brendan will be joining the panel for the Q&A section later in the webinar.

Scott Storey

So the key ingredient highlighted as part of our second webinar by Jon Cross is the technological change in isolation will not deliver the UK Net 0 targets. For bereavement services, this adds to the complexity with the remaining 59 percent of impact inextricably linked to societal and behavioral change.

Scott Storey

It's not just using green energy. It's helping clients to make an informed choice. And with the U.K. government recently announcing that they've brought forward the targets by 15 years from 2050 to 2035, we collectively have a lot to do to ensure compliance and very little time to do it. We all have a part to play to review the services that each of us provide and what can be done to minimize the environmental impact of our services, and our panel today will provide insights from three very different aspects.

Scott Storey

There is no singular answer.

Our first panellist is Dennis Jacobs. He's going to provide some insights as to how DFW are approaching the environment question. Over to you, Dennis.

Dennis Jacobs

All right, good morning to you all. Welcome. I'm going to tell you something about the facts and figures of our electric Cremator at DFW Electric. So next slide, please Scott.

Dennis Jacobs

All right, these are key points of the DFW Electric, we have no emission from the gas burners, no use of fossil fuel at 100 percent green energy. 50 percent CO2 reduction compared to gas or oil heated cremators. A 50 percent NOx reduction compared to gas or oil heated cremators, and long lasting heat-resistant brickwork. We have cost savings in maintenance, we have a very low energy consumption.

Dennis Jacobs

Extraction heat energy uses of the cremation process is still possible. The energy, which is necessary for the cremation process, comes from the coffin and the body. The emissions of the DFW Electric meet of the five emission demands and every cremation gives energy, so no need to convert them for the next day. And it's ultra silent. And I will go to each and every point in this presentation. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

No emission from the gas burners. So that means no moisture from the combustion of gas. If you have, say, 32 cubic metres of gas and you also get 32 litres of water to your system. We don't have that anymore. Due to that lack of gas burners, we also have a lower fluegas volume. And, of course, no NOx or CO2 emission from the combustion of natural gas, and due to the lack of the powerful burners, it's also ultra silence. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Of course, if you have no use of fossil fuel and 100 percent clean energy, then you have no CO2 emission from the cremator itself. But in the next sheets, we work with the figures of the UK based electricity generation emissions data because we extract power from the grid. And that is a mixture of all kinds of energy sources. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Let me start with the electric cremator. This was our key point, 50 percent CO2 reduction, but our philosophy was that 50 percent of the cremation process comes from the body in the coffin, and that is the first bullet.

Speaker 3

The CO2 production of 102 kilogram cremation process, say person of 75 kg plus the coffin. Then you get about 113 kilograms of CO2. But in the next slides, we'll leave that out and we only compare the electric cremator made, the weakest we make. And if you have the combustion of one cubic meter natural gas, we produce about one point eight kg CO2. And from that base electricity generation emissions data, you have the numbers. If you have one kilowatt of electricity that you create about 0.25 kilograms CO2.

Dennis Jacobs

When you count with an average gas consumption of 32 cubic metres, natural gas for cremations, say, 6 cremations a day, 1500 cremations a year, a gas cremator creates about 96,000 kg CO2 for gas and electricity in total. Because you have your filtration system, you have controls, of your fans running through, also you have electricity. For the DFW Electric, the yearly energy consumption will be well below under the five thousand kilowatt hours per year when you operate six cremators a day, fifteen hundred cremations a year. When you use the above factor of 0.25 kg CO2 per kilowatt hour this gives a CO2 footprint of about 26000 kilograms of CO2. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Here you see an overview compared to the amount of cremations, if you go to the six again and you see the figures I named before, let's say you go to two cremations a day, 500 cremations a year, very low figure. Then you see the CO2 production of the DFW Electric, around 39000 kg CO2 or DFW 6000, we compared to  our own gas cremator, at around 78 thousand kilogram CO2.

Dennis Jacobs

And next to it you see the kilogram CO2 per cremation. And there you see at the end, you already have a CO2 reduction of 49 percent. And the more cremations you do, you see the reduction will be bigger. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

50 percent and waste reduction compared to gas or oil heated cremators. As I said before, no burners, no NOx created by burners, there is a 50 percent NOx reduction in grams per hour. The amount of NOx per cubic meters, that's about the same in ballpark cremators. You have still the process and the body in the coffin. But due to the lack of gas burners and the more gentle process, the average volume rate in an electric cremators is half the amount of that in a gas cremator. So the average volume rate in an electric cremators, about 11 cubic meters. And  the average volume rate in the gas cremator is about 2200 cubic meters. The process temperature is still above 800 degrees Celsius, and I will explain it later on. So the de-NOx is still possible, but the question must be, do we need it due to the low end of its production because we were also Urea injection gives a CO2 addition. So you save some NOx but you create CO2. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Long-Lasting heat resistant brickwork. Brickwork in the cremator that last longer than the cremator, which keeps its temperature. The same as in a gas cremator. So the thermal shocks are lower. And in the electric cremator, it's kept on temperature 24/7, 365 days a year for less thermal shocks. We use Silicium carbide tiles. It's a very hot material. It gives a good through flow of heat in the cremator. It acts a little bit like glass, so the elements are behind it. It is the same with the sun. You feel the sun coming through the glass and that is the Silicium carbide, it's a very hot material.

Dennis Jacobs

The electrical elements are placed from the outside in the construction for easy maintenance and the exchange with brickwork or elements. The maintenance cost savings are at least 10 percent, and that has to do with a long lasting brickwork, but also a lack of moisture in the system.

Dennis Jacobs

Low energy consumption. The electric cremator is kept at temperature, as I said before, 24/7, 365 days a year. And you have to imagine it's just like a battery which stores thermal energy, so not electricity. No, you built up with electricity, the heat in the cremator, or you build it up for the cremation processes. The body in the coffin are the fuel for the cremation process. Here are some examples of male of 75 kilograms in a wooden coffin gives about 220 kilowatt hours of energy and a female gives about to 267 kilowatt hours of energy.

Dennis Jacobs

In a gas cremator, it is sufficient to create contiguously, so that means if you have only one or two cremations today, you can better save them for the next day and do them more in a row. In an electric cremator, every process you put in gives more energy than it costs, so it will heat up the cremator. Due to the energy efficient process, the efforts through amazing time of the DFW electric, it's about 30 minutes longer than the gas cremator.

Dennis Jacobs

It's the same with the washing machine. If you have economical program, it takes a little bit more time. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Here we have the yearly energy consumption and costs. We have to six cremators a day, except before. Then you see under the 5000 kilowatt hours and an electric cremator you see 518,000 kilowatt hours for gas and electricity. I used the prices for the electricity prices and the gas prices used in the UK. You have a feeling about cost savings then. And you see that at three cremations a day, there is a break even point in costs.

Dennis Jacobs

But with every cremator, you see a lower energy usage and you see that energy reduction totally to the right. So that gives you a feeling about how low in energy the total cremator is. And these figures are not only for the cremator, but for the complete system, including filtration system. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Extraction heat energy uses of the cremation process. Because the gas volume rate is 50 percent lower than in gas cremator, also the energy extraction from the fluegas is lower because we don't destroy as much energy in an electric treatment as we do in a gas cremator.

Dennis Jacobs

The estimate available energy is around 25 kg kilowatt hours per cremation process. But we are practical guys and we want to have practical features and that is why we built it in our latest installation. So second half of 2012 demand. We have practical features of that, the reuse of energy, of the heat of the fluegas. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

The emissions meets the PG5 emission demands. Extensively emissions tests were performed in North Oxfordshire (UK) and Geleen (NL) and both passed the PG5 demands.

Dennis Jacobs

An abated gas cremator needs to work with an afterburner chamber temperature of a minimum of 800 °C because the air volume in the chamber is heated and not the brickwork. An electric cremator can work with a minimum afterburner chamber temperature of 700 degrees Celsius because the total construction is 700 degrees Celsius. But as I said earlier, when the process starts that the confidence is charged, then immediately the temperatures will rise up to above 800 degrees Celsius. That starts within a few minutes. And that is also a process where you create a little bit of NOx. So DeNOx is still possible. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Here, I will explain a little bit about the heat radiation inside the cremator. To the left, we see the DFW Electric and the elements are in the brickwork, you can see the heat radiation coming from the brickwork. And you see the coldest spot in the electric cremator that's in the same part of the chambers of the cremator when the disinvest.

Dennis Jacobs

The gas cremator to the right, you see the flame, heat radiation from the flame and you see the hottest spot in the cremator is in the center near the flame. So it gets a little bit of a feeling about the heat and radiation in the gas cremator, and in the electric cremator. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Difficult cremations. Cancer tissue costs more energy to cremate. We have that in our gas cremators, we also have that in our electric cremators. But the trick with the electric cremator is that we create enough energy in the primary chamber because the floor is so well heated with the huge flame underneath it, which we create with the flue gases coming from the cremation process that rises up immediately to a minimum of nine degrees and even hotter. And due to this high temperature cancer tissue has less impact on the cremation time in an electric cremator. Next slide, please.

Dennis Jacobs

Cooling down, heating up. The DFW Electric has always kept at temperature, as I said before. The ready for cremation after commissioning is about 65 hours. So it takes a lot of time to heat it up from room temperature to operating temperature. That has to do with we have an electrical power available power, the elements is sixty six kilowatts. And compared to a gas cremator, you have about 650 kilowatts. That's almost 10 times more. After 3000 cremations, we have to first cool down to 25 degrees for cleaning and inspection and the cremator will be out of operation for about two days.

Dennis Jacobs

And as I said earlier, the floor is so enormously hot that even the ashes can melt to the floor and that needs an extra floor in cremator. So it's six hundred cremations, we cool it down, not to room temperature, but we cool it down to two hundred degrees and we have a special brining tool to clear, to clean the floor and get it ready for cremation again. Next, slide please. .

Dennis Jacobs

We are almost at the end of our presentation. The deal will be electric. This is our cremator incentive part of the Netherlands. It's the single cremator and this year the first double electric cremators are going to operate in Germany and also in the Netherlands. This is my end of the presentation, Scott. So over to you, again, Scott.

Scott Storey

Thanks Dennis. Our next panelist is Simon Holden from the Faunus Group. Simon is going to give us some more interesting information. Simon, over to you.

Simon Holden

Thanks, Scott. Good morning. As Scott said, my name is Simon, I'm from the Faunus group, and I'm here to talk about the work that we do with VPI, Vertus Port Inc estates, and the work we do together, which is dedicated to naturally reducing the negative impact on soil and land health by dispersal methods, which are burial and ash disposal. I'm about to try and squeeze 12 years of PHD level research into 10 minutes, so please bear with me. Next slide, please Scott.

Simon Holden

OK, so, polishing coal. And there are always three areas of cremation that will always be of environmental or operational concern. The emissions, not just the CO2, the nitrates, the mercury escape, the particulates. Any combustion, you can't avoid these these emissions. Energy usage and pressure on the grid. I'm sorry. The pressure on the grid, the automotive industry needs to be all electric by 2035. Point the next power stations due  online isn't due until 2026. That got signed off in 2010.

Simon Holden

You can see there's a big lag in these things that have been authorized and coming online. So plug it in. Seems to be answer for everything and it really can't be, the grid won't be able to cope.

Simon Holden

And then the third issue is the ashes that created at the end of it. 1100 tons of harmful cremated ash is created each year that need to be dispersed, unregulated within the UK. Ashes with a PH of 11.8, saline limits of between two hundred and two thousand times the tolerance of any plant native to the UK.

Simon Holden

And obviously nasty stuff. And that's enough ashes to negatively affect a piece of land about the size of 385 football pitches in the UK every single year. You can imagine any new business proposing this would obviously be shut down straight away. And it's just one of those things that's always just slipped through the net as part of the cremation process. Next slide, please.

Simon Holden

So start from scratch. Radical problems need radical thinking, and if we were going to start from scratch and we're going to look at a process of dispersal, what would that process look like?

Simon Holden

It would have a carbon negative process. It would eliminate all our particulates. It'll eliminate mercury escape and maybe not just eliminate the mercury escape, but you'd be able to capture, store, responsibly get rid of or indeed to recycle. The minimal energy usage, it'd be nice if you didn't just have minimal energy usage, but you actually completely self-sufficient and fed a little bit back into the grid. That'll be lovely. And a full cycle process. So there's no secondary negative output from the process. There's not that extra issue to deal with at the end of it. Accepted by all, by public conscious.

Simon Holden

So it's not just the process. It needs to be the price point. And the price point, it's not just affordable for the bereaved, but also for the owners, the operators, the people that will be implementing the system. A system that pays for itself after nine years, not so clever. A system that starts showing profit at the end of year two, beginning of year three, much, much better. So radical problems, radical solutions. Slide number four, please, Scott.

Simon Holden

So this is our this is our dream team. This is the forensic team that we work with. It's an impressive group. We nicknamed them The Boffins. I'm a little bit upset that yet again I've been missed off that list. But these really are like the Harlem Globetrotters of the forensic science world. They are the top buds. And please feel free to to research these chaps afterwards and slide five. I'm running along.

Simon Holden

OK, so Mother Nature has been doing it since life began. Natural dispersal of bodies, is obviously nothing new. It's been going on since life has existed on planet Earth. But what began with VPI in 2009 study and monitoring and collecting data from burials and hundreds of test burials were carried out with pigs. But let me state that they were poorly pigs to begin with. A different depths, we  have a different calibrated mediums. We then studied and identified and isolated development activators, which are the enzymes, the bacteria, the microorganisms, the fungi that are most efficient at certain depths many years later and much time later, in this case, it was Artien.

Simon Holden

And Artien, it's critical and it's the linchpin in everything that we do. During this process, we also developed a thorough understanding of the very different stages of dispersal and decomposition. You can categorically break them down into different sections. This provided what Professor Carter and Professor Tibbett believes to be the single most comprehensive data set currently available on the subject. We had to go through that process because it didn't exist. And so for us to begin the research and development, we first have to develop the dataset. That got us thinking on the backend of that research that if we could fully disperse a body in under three years and ground conditions in standard burial, then what could we do if we controlled all the variables and everything else that went along with it?

Simon Holden

So that's what we did as the next logical stage of our research and development with Artien, we' began to delve into the environmental controls and the variables that we just couldn't get a handle on or control in a standard ground burial. And that led us to the next slide, please. Scott.

Simon Holden

But let us to the POD system. So, POD system: precision organic dispersal. And I apologize for the images there, but obviously we are research and development and operation. And so our razzmatazz and showmanship probably isn't up to scratch with the other folks. But we can't show you the schematics because they are a little bit sensitive at the moment. But this gives you an idea of what a POD is and how a POD sensor would look. And next slide, please, Scott.

Simon Holden

So. Final phase of testing beginning later this year. The final phase of testing is being carried out already in university, forensic sciences department and the results, the data and all of the findings are going to be made available for public and peer review.

Simon Holden

And the whole story is also going to be documented in live streaming and webcast. We basically won't be hiding anything. There's no smoke, no mirrors, no genie behind the curtain. We're going to be as transparent with the process as we possibly can. This will be the third phase of testing and the third issue, if you like, of the POD, and this final stage of testing is going to be carried out in the production ready version of the POD, and the prototype of that, so that's very exciting stuff.

Simon Holden

The aim is to achieve full body dispersal in three months or under, which we have obviously quite confident and have been able to do. I wont be talking to you guys. Now, it's a full cycle system. Full cycle means there's nothing left. So there is no secondary process after you've been through the transition. This means there's no hair, no teeth, anything keratin based, which is the problem to get rid of any kind of burial.

Simon Holden

It's all broken down into effective and accessible nutrients with all the prohibitors removed, so any any fauna, any plant life can immediately interact with the By-Products. That the system is basically operated by the supercharge activators and they were very special, the enzymes, bacteria, microorganisms and fungi that mentioned before, they're all isolated and contained and calibrated within the Artien. The Artien for the pod is different, slightly different, different calibrations to other variations of the Artien.

Simon Holden

So it's a very specialist medium that goes into the POD that enables it to do what it does. A fully automated, data controlled operation. So the POD itself, the POD monitors and adjusts the various environmental controls as the dispersal decomposition progresses, providing optimum conditions for the activators required at that stage of decomposition. So whether they be acting on the fatty acids, which are the soft tissues, which are the easiest part of the whole process, it's very easy to get rid of the soft tissue.

Simon Holden

The problems come when you start dealing with the tough, cartilaginous  connective tissue, the bones, the hair, the teeth. Again, anything that is Keratin based, the specialist activators required at each stage are managed via the data that's produced. So each POD transition is unique within its own tolerance. Each activator gives off its own trace signal. And by understanding their signature on the stage of decomposition that they're active, we can accurately monitor and see what's happening within the pod at that time, meaning we can optimize the conditions as required for that particular stage of decomposition. And also ultimately will tell us when that process is finished and that the process has run. And back to the scratch list.

Simon Holden

Carbon negative process. Yes, eliminate all our particulates. Absolutely. There's no combustion, eliminate all mercury escape. Absolutely. 100 percent. Minimal energy usage. Theoretically, we are going to be able to sell power very much like Dennis was saying about self burning of the cadaver's. We will be able to harness certain energy sources coming from that. And hopefully we'll be able to not only power ourselves, but we will be able to feed back a little bit into the grid as well, to help with all of those cars we've got to plug in from 2035. Accept a full cycle process. Absolutely. And accepted by the public conscious. We believe that that is obviously something that the public are ready for. And for work with one of our other companies, a burial company, would be accomplished. So next slide, please.

Simon Holden

So what happens after? The system effectively follows the same course as cremation in the eyes of the bereaved, so it won't be any great leap of understanding for the end user. Services can be held anywhere permissible in existing chapels, church holds, private venues. Anywhere we can hold a service, you can hold the service for this. When the curtain goes down, that's when obviously the cadaver then moves to the POD, for environmental cremation, for the bereaved, it's the same bereavement cycle. The family still receive back pretty much the same weight as an ashes of products in order to then have a memorial with afterwards. Regardless of where you use that memorial, though, where you use the discerned. Tree planting, scattered in turn, it's a positive impact.

Simon Holden

So there isn't that break from the ashes. And as we've witnessed with the woodland burial company and the growth and growth each year, the public's appetite for environmentally minded and managed memorial parks and cemeteries is growing dramatically year on year. We're certainly noticing a huge increase on that. And slide nine, please.

Simon Holden

So the cherry on top. The system By-Products is an environmental plus, so there is only a positive with the By-Products. And a capacity to kick, kick, start repair poor soil conditions. Again the By-Products of the process is used in a positive way in positive places. It can be used in tree planting, habitat creation or soil repair. Absolutely. And accelerated growth in CO2 sequestration. Now that last point I needed clarification for myself at least twice from The Boffins and it sounds too good to be true. But in fact, the preliminary growth studies, the results show that plant trees or even new meadows grown from the system by-products grow quicker, a lot quicker. And initial predictions lend towards an additional 20 percent in CO2 sequestration from any tree planted in the by-products. Now it's early days with the growth studies, growth studies take a long time, but it's looking very promising. And put that into numbers, when we're talking about planting a million trees a year, you all of a sudden got the equivalent of planting 1.2 million trees a year. So that is a huge, huge, huge cherry on top of the whole system. It's obviously been very difficult to fit this into the 10 minute allocated slot, and I hope I've managed to do that. I have skipped past obviously huge swathes of information in order to get to that point. But yeah, thanks for listening. And if you've got any questions, please don't hesitate to get in contact and I'll be happy to talk to anyone in more detail about what we're doing.

Simon Holden

Thanks a lot.

Scott Storey

Thanks Simon! Our final panelist for today is Hannah Leverton, representing SAIF to talk about changes that are happening with some funeral directors to deliver ecofriendly funeral arrangements. Over to you, Hannah.

Hannah Leverton

Thank you, Scott. Hi, everybody. I'm Hannah Leverton from Le verton & Sons. We're an independent funeral director in North London with six branches. And I've been operating since 1789. We conduct about a thousand funerals or over a thousand funerals, adult funerals, sorry, a year. And I provide the communications for the company. I hope that what I have to say is useful today. But if you have any questions and if there's anything I can't answer at the end, I will ask my colleagues.

Hannah Leverton

We're members of many organizations and are founding members of SAIF, the Association of Independent Funeral Directors. We're part of the Environmental Stewardship Group and have been associated with green funeral directors for many years. The greening of funerals has been on our own agenda for a very long time now. So much so that we pioneered the UK's first all electric hearse with Brahms, which you can see being used today across the country.

Hannah Leverton

So we have a green agenda and ethos at Leverton's, which we try to weave into the choices we offer to our clients. But this is not necessarily the case across the profession. Some funeral directors we find in fact only exist to offer green funeral options and others don't really focus on it at all. However, should it also come down to being a consumer led rather than funeral director driven or a mixture of both? Next slide, please. Thank you.

Hannah Leverton

Are we, as a profession, consumer led? For example, supermarket consumers used to use a huge amount of single plastic carrier bags for their shopping.

Hannah Leverton

Only once the government legislated the commercial companies selling the products to introduce the fee in 2015 did we see a huge change in single use plastic bags being used? So much so, the official figures showed a 95 percent decrease in use of plastic bags since the 5p, which is going to go to 10p, fee was introduced in 2015. So do our clients come to us with a green agenda when it comes to funerals?

Hannah Leverton

Just like with the bag before the fee was introduced, many of us would acknowledge and we are aware that we have a climate emergency and yet we still often make funeral arrangement choices without that being a core value. We would say in our experience, currently, only five percent of our clients come to us with an explicit request for a greener a funeral.

Hannah Leverton

Clients choices are often based on traditional values and what they deem as normal, and sadly in the funeral world, that is often meant high energy consumption options and those with detrimental effects on the environment. In our experience so far, it's simply not on the agenda of the consumer yet. They are also the emotional sensitivities we have to take into account. We are a consumer led organization here, often referred to as offering everything to everyone. It is our job to be able to listen carefully to the wishes of our client and then offer them the funeral that they want.

Hannah Leverton

We often find clients aren't aware of the greener funeral options or it's something that they simply haven't even thought about. And when they come to us, of course, they are suffering grief and learning more and more and more options can often become information overload. So it's always our job to weave the green options and tailor choices to suit the client's wishes, but only if we have enough information and the right options available to us. Funeral directors can offer green funeral options, such as electric hearses to cut carbon emissions, and woodland or natural burial sites.

Hannah Leverton

It should be clarified here that I am using the term natural burial ground rather than woodland burial ground as some burial grounds are existing woodland where burials lie between the trees, whereas other burial grounds start as fields where trees are planted once the burial has taken place to form a new future woodland. Some burial grounds will not even contain trees, but will instead become meadows and natural flowers. The land and the natural species that use these can be preserved and turned into nature reserves or country parks. Biodegradability allows for the grave spaces to be reused.

 

However, natural burial grounds are not for everyone as traditional memorials are not allowed, currently. As an inner city funeral director in London, we find that they can be some distance away, only reachable by car from urban areas. For example, for us, we have no dedicated natural burial ground within the M-25 which circles around London. For those of you who don't know where we are.

Hannah Leverton

Some urban cemeteries have started natural burial sections to use parts of the cemetery unusable for traditional graves, i.e. wooded areas. But these areas are generally small and restricted at the moment. The emergence of electric vehicles is certainly a key way forward, particularly for urban funerals. They are continuing improvements in the technology and battery capacity, but there needs to be electric points at crematoriums and cemeteries. Currently, there are none at any of our local ones that we use regularly.

Hannah Leverton

Over the last 150 years, the distance travelled on funerals has increased due to the development of the internal combustion engine. Local graveyards are now rarely used, and there has been a rise of private and local authority cemeteries covering the wider local area. In many rural areas of the country, the local crematorium is still some distance away. Hearses and limousines, by their very nature, tend to be heavy users of petrol diesel, and mourners do not use public transport, often driving themselves in their own private cars at the moment.

Hannah Leverton

The impact of families repeatedly returning to the grave site for reflection and solace should also be factored in. Most people know about natural coffins made of natural materials such as willow or bamboo. They are biodegradable and involve no glue. They are cheaper than solid wood and individually made, and they seem more sustainable and eco friendly, but often are imported from Eastern Europe or China or in the Far East in large container ships. And we find that English willow is more expensive.

Hannah Leverton

The people that come to us often choose them for their aesthetics rather than being more environmentally friendly. That's usually the reason of choice. Apart from the coffin itself, we should also be looking to use environmentally friendly options for all the fittings, the caps, the handles, the linings, etc.. It would be good to have some way for us to compare the relative greenness of coffins. Is cardboard as good as it sounds? Does it use as much energy in manufacturing as the wood? Can coffins shipped from Poland or China be greener than those made in the UK?

Hannah Leverton

It's these bigger questions in terms of what is in fact more energy efficient that we often, as funeral directors find really challenging to answer or resolve. It would be helpful to have an easy way of showing this e.g. and numerical scale, i.e. that the higher the number, the greener it is. Like a traffic light system or an alphabetical scale like we find with electrical appliances. Environmental sustainability will be the key in all of this.

Hannah Leverton

Another example to give you is the webcasting of funerals. Since Covid, this format has become the norm and will continue to be normal even when restrictions are lifted. In the past, we found filming funerals was often seen as odd by a lot of clients. This is a consumer led example. The impact means less people travelling to a funeral and subsequent carbon emissions are reduced. However, to begin with, people may make a point of attending funerals in person and delay the funeral until restrictions are fully lifted after the pandemic.

Hannah Leverton

In fact, the physical attendance at a funeral is really worth noting here. It's more than just witnessing the service, which you can do by watching the webcast. It's also really about gathering with other people in person to provide support and solace in their shared grief. Technology can only go so far, but it can't always replace the value of the funerals' purpose. Digitization really is important, however, and it's really important in our company operations and systems in our own offices. We've worked really hard to be less paper led.

Hannah Leverton

The profession traditionally has an overreliance on heavy paper usage. Working practices can always be reviewed and developed to include energy saving initiatives. We've been working at this for a long time now and invested in systems from CRM systems to reduce to reducing paper storage and shredding. Even shredding paper to use in our pillows. Arrangements are done by phone and email at the moment, making them paperless, involving no travelling. But we don't see our clients until the day of the funeral.

Hannah Leverton

We lose that human touch we've just talked about. Often the client, given the choice, would still travel to see the funeral director to make the arrangement. Personal contact counts for a lot in our line of work.

Hannah Leverton

So we all agree it's time to move the sustainability of funerals forward. But what are the challenges to overcome? Consumer led behavior change, we think, will be key as long as we present openly the green options and benefits, some of which we've heard earlier from Simon and Dennis. What has been deemed as traditional needs to be reframed and normalized.

Hannah Leverton

It's all in the telling of the options, the weaving of the green agenda, which is much easier when we can physically meet with people and read their actual interest. The infrastructure and options have to be there, again, like we heard earlier, along with costs being less prohibitive. For example, like for like electric hearses, which ultimately relies on technology improving. To have an impact, there must also be a way to reach all funeral directors so that we can all be consistent and standardize in our policy and our options to do what we require as a responsible organization to take this forward. And we will need that organization to make this happen. And to make the impact we need quickly enough it will need to be brought about through legislation, we think. Like with the shopping bag example, to make the consumer options greener, to make the options we offer to clients greener and more measurable.

Hannah Leverton

SAIF, our membership body with over 2000 independent funeral directors across the UK, have identified the need for a profession wide initiative. They are committed to the environmental journey using a pragmatic approach. In 2019, they put forward a paper, the Carbon Neutral Initiative, which identifies trade bodies as having a potential influential role to play in this movement for change. They confirm in this paper much of what we, as one funeral director, has experienced is representative of the profession. To start, it identifies ways to take all of this forward, including a combined and collaborative trade body effort to approach the government for policy and support.

Hannah Leverton

It suggests consultations with their members to identify doable timescales and then subsequent goal setting and sign up. They are also focusing their next educational day on the 10th of November featuring an environmental expert. This initiative is a starting point and we must now pull together to move forwards and quickly.

Hannah Leverton

Thank you very much. I hope this was of some use and really appreciate being invited today. Thank you.

Scott Storey

Thanks Hannah.

Hannah Leverton

You're welcome.

Scott Storey

So now we're into the Q&A session, really just to wrap up. I can see the panel have been very busy answering lots of questions as we go, but we have a few here. I have a question for Simon. "Really interesting presentation. Thank you. Where would the POD centers be, and where would the deceased be taken? Does the process exclude traditional coffins?"

Simon Holden

So the POD centers can be wherever. We've talked to a few local authorities, local authorities have their own crematoria. How private operators have their own crematoria, exactly the same premise. They can be wherever. There's no geographical demand on where they can be built. And as for the traditional coffin, that was one of the points that's not in. We didn't have time to talk about it. You wouldn't really necessarily need a bespoke coffin for it, you could have a show coffin, if you will, much like the hearse is reused time and time again. With a little bit of change in thought process that we could also cut out thousands of coffins of production and shipping and everything else that goes with them, out of the market as well.

Simon Holden

So we envisage the coffin becoming a bit like a hearse, it would be a show piece rather than actual practical peace that goes into the ground and does that. So in effect, you would you would basically have a show coffin that would be reused.

Scott Storey

Perfect, okay. You've generated quite a flurry of questions, Simon. So.

Simon Holden

We always do.

Scott Storey

The next one is, if there are 2000 funerals taking three months to decompose. Does this require 500 pots? I'm not sure he's doing the maths, but.

Simon Holden

It's about the turn around per POD. So it's a three months per transition or thereabouts, and you get four transitions per POD. So a 300 POD center would do 1200 and the maths thereafter. I say, we're hoping three months we're bounding about what we're hoping that we're going to be able to nibble off of that and squeeze five, maybe six out per POD.

Scott Storey

Perfect. And the next question for you, which is an interesting one, what would the ballpark figure cost for each POD, a thousand or ten thousand?

Simon Holden

For each POD as in, is that the cost of transition by the POD? or is that the cost of purchasing the POD?

Scott Storey

The cost of purchase, looking at that.

Simon Holden

Cost of purchase per POD would be around seventeen and a half to eighteen thousand pounds. And the price point is between cremation and burial, average burial for an off ground cremation, then I don't know what the actual figures are, but I think there are about two thousand eight hundred or something like that.

Simon Holden

And so the price point would be between there. So you'd be looking at about four thousand two hundred pound. But obviously you don't have the cost of a casket for the unused neither.

Scott Storey
  1. As I said, the panel have been answering lots of questions and so the ones that they have responded to during the Q&A and in text will be added in terms of the website webinar afterwards and shared.
Scott Storey

I think that's about all the questions we have for today. And so with that, I will wrap up and move forward. So, thank you for joining us for today's event. I hope that you found this session beneficial.

Scott Storey

Please take a look at the OpusXenta website blog section. You'll find several informative articles which relate to not just today's topic, but several others. We are running a series of events over the coming months. Again, please take a look and register. The next in the series that we've got scheduled, you can see here and as I said at the beginning, we will be distributing recordings of today's event in the coming days. And please feel free to share those links with your colleagues.

Scott Storey

If you have any other ideas or thoughts in terms of topics that you would like us to cover or explore, we are more interested to hear from you.

Scott Storey

So once again, thank you all for your time today and have a good day.