Eco-friendly burials for SA

17 August 2011 - 02:29 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
Image: Thembinkosi Dwayisa

South African funerals are usually expensive occasions characterised by mahogany caskets dripping with shiny trimmings and towering marble tombstones.

But for those who want to make their exit from this world in the increasingly popular eco-friendly way, there are a variety of options available locally.

Collinge & Co Funeral Directors in Fourways, Johannesburg, offers eco-friendly funerals at the Fourways Memorial Park, where a section has been reserved for such burials. Here tombstones have been replaced with indigenous trees.

In Cape Town, a company called Flaura produces "100% earth-friendly" funeral products, including coffins made from green seagrass with rope handles and laser-engraved bamboo name plaques.

Neil Ferguson, owner of the company, said the trend towards eco-friendly funerals and products is very popular in the UK and the US, and "is gaining momentum in South Africa".

Yesterday saw the launch of a privately owned eco-friendly cemetery on a conservation site outside Stellenbosch, Western Cape, where zebra and springbok run wild.

The cemetery, situated in the Wiesenhof Legacy Parks, will have a full-time maintenance team headed by a horticulturalist.

A Pretoria man will travel to the cemetery next week to plant a biodegradable urn with his parents' ashes.

According to the company, a conventional funeral, "with all the bells and whistles", costs approximately R30 000 while they offer a prime plot at Wiesenhof for R28 000.

In addition to grave sites, there are memorialisation areas for "the scattering of ashes with seeds to create fields of flowers or tree planting".

All caskets will be biodegradable and tombstones will be replaced with "engraved stone markers" or a tree planted by family and friends.

The cemetery will also have a coffee shop for loved ones to relax after saying their final goodbyes.

Legacy Parks CEO Willie Fouché plans to open eco-friendly cemeteries throughout South Africa.

In the UK, the Ecopod company produces handmade papier-maché coffins from recycled newspaper.

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