Why some funeral directors are starting to embrace green burial
Today, the Cremation Association of North America announced that they are projecting that in 2010 more than 40% of deaths in North America will result in cremation. That’s up from 38% in 2008. In our area (Middle Atlantic) the percentage will be 36% in 2010, which is up from 34% in 2009. For families that represents a big savings over conventional cemetery burial. But for funeral homes it represents a big loss in income.
Primarily for this reason, many funeral homes are failing financially. Others are just getting by with their funeral directors foregoing maintenance and repairs of their facilities and taking on second jobs to pay their bills.
However, there is now a group of funeral directors who see green burial as a niche opportunity that they can go after to keep their businesses in the black and provide a needed new service to families. Actually, at least in our area, they see three niches:
- First, recent surveys of green cemeteries have revealed that about 80% of families who chose green burial for a family member were originally going to opt for cremation, but they changed their minds when they learned about green burial—a more environment-friendly choice. Because of this, green oriented funeral homes are now making sure their cremation families are aware of green burial as an option. Often they weren’t aware of this choice, and decide it’s what they want for their loved one, even if it costs a bit more than cremation.
- Second, because there are only a few green cemeteries, some people who want a green burial must find a cemetery a considerable distance from their homes. Penn Forest Natural Burial Park, for example, located in Pittsburgh, serves nearly all of Pennsylvania and is the closest green cemetery for large parts of Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Delaware. Hence, we will be having many burials that would not normally come to our area. Nearly all of those families will need a local Pittsburgh funeral home, and that is business that they would not get if Penn Forest wasn’t here and they weren’t certified by the Green Burial Council.
- Finally, many families who elect green burial also want a home funeral. For this reason, several local funeral homes have decided to help families with this option too. Again, that’s business they wouldn’t get without green burial.
So we are finding that a small group of visionary funeral directors in our area have figured out that green burial can be a source of new business and not a threat to their existing business, and they have been eager to form relationships with us. So, we have compiled a list of these area funeral homes and we make it available to all our customers.
So I ask you, are these funeral directors on to something? Is green burial the wave of the future for the funeral home business?
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