Eco Coffins

Many of us are aware of climate change, so what about an eco-friendly coffin at the end of your life?

We are probably more conscious of the effects of single use plastic, realise the implications of fast fashion and know that the food choices we make can have devastating consequences for the planet. The likes of the Extinction Rebellion movement and Sir David Attenborough have certainly helped to raise awareness of climate change. Embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle is high on many people’s agenda, so why not follow the same principles at the end of your life?

Eco coffins

Have you given any thought to an eco coffin or a green burial? When we first started weaving willow coffins over a decade ago, it was certainly viewed as a fairly niche product. However, times have changed and people are far more open to breaking with tradition and selecting a woven willow coffin over a solid mahogany one. (Our Glastonbury and Hay Moor coffins are woven from steamed willow, so the colour is very similar to mahogany.)

Make it personal

More often than not, a bereaved family is keen for the funeral service to reflect not just the life of the deceased but also their personality. More personalised funerals are gaining in popularity. While song choices and eulogies can be incredibly poignant, the coffin can be a little impersonal. The families that we encounter are often delighted to learn that willow can be treated in different ways to produce radically different finishes. Willow can also be dyed (we only use natural dyes). Virtually any colour is possible – our Rainbow coffin is very popular.

Eco coffins

And it doesn’t stop there. We also personalise coffin linings. We have made beautiful linings from favourite items of clothing and also used natural dyes to create vibrant colours. Wooden nameplates can also be used to great effect. (One of our recent favourites was a plaque which stated, ‘Gone to the shed’.) The end result is a unique piece which is both stunning to look at and incredibly personal.

The wonder of willow

But we digress. Let’s get back to the incredible eco credentials of willow. Our willow is planted from cuttings taken from high quality stock. Willow only takes around 3 years to get established. It can then be cut and harvested. The main growing ‘stump’ can last 60+ years and the shoots (or ‘rods’) can be harvested every year.

Jack & Mike Musgrove preparing willow cuttings

Depending on the growing conditions and variety, willow rods can grow 8 – 10 feet in a single season (May – September). We then process the rods and use them to create a multitude of different coffin styles and finishes.

Compare those statistics to mahogany, a more traditional coffin wood. Now mahogany is no slouch. It ‘only’ takes around 25 years for a mahogany tree to reach a mature height of around 50 feet. But of course, once it is cut down that’s it for the tree. Not a particularly eco-friendly way to make a coffin.

Another popular choice is walnut. A walnut tree takes around 30 years to reach maturity. Yes, you get the added benefit of the nuts, but again, once it’s cut down, the tree is no more.

Sustainable & carbon negative

Like any tree, willow removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so that’s an eco-friendly start. As our willow grows we very rarely need to water it. Our farm on the Somerset Levels is surrounded by water filled ditches and the climate and soil provide ideal growing conditions.

Most of our warehouses have rainwater harvesting tanks. These range from 1,000 litre tanks to a whopping 10,000 litre one. The recycled rainwater is used in the processing of the willow. This can be in the boiling process or when our willow is stripped. As we are growing, processing and then weaving the willow, the miles involved in the transportation of our willow are minimal. This helps us to produce the ultimate high quality, eco-friendly coffins.

Weaving a willow or wicker coffin

It’s worth remembering that willow coffins are often referred to as wicker coffins or caskets. The quality of willow/wicker coffins can vary enormously. It isn’t just the quality of the willow which will have a bearing on your eco friendly choice. (A coffin isn’t so eco-friendly if the willow has been flown in from Eastern Europe or shipped from China…)

Eco coffins
Helping to weave a loved one’s willow coffin

Weaving a good willow coffin takes a huge amount of skill and experience. Our dedicated basket makers can make a high quality, bespoke coffin in 24 – 48 hours. Many families who order an eco-friendly coffin from us like to come and help weave it. This process can be incredibly cathartic. It’s a chance for family and friends to play an active part in making something beautiful and eco friendly. Families often arrive here understandably upset, but leave in far better spirits. The weaving process gives people the time to swap stories and reminisce. No previous weaving experience is required as one of our highly skilled team is always on hand. (If you do get the weaving bug, we run courses throughout the year.) We’ve had people of all ages get involved.

Our eco coffins pass the test

All our eco-friendly willow coffins have passed rigorous testing and meet with funeral and cremation requirements. Correctly woven willow is incredibly robust and size is not an issue. Our coffins have been weight tested to carry 30 stone and we have woven willow coffins that are 7 feet long! As we use only environmentally friendly materials in our coffins they are also suitable for Green Burial Sites. (Even our coffin pillows are filled with natural hay which is usually from our own fields.)

Eco-friendly name plaques

After our eco-friendly willow coffins have been woven and lined, (with a biodegradable liner) a name plaque is made. FSC certified ash and oak are usually used.

Our Gravograph laser engraver allows us to provide customers with a wide range of choice and the finished nameplates are beautiful. It’s the finishing eco-friendly touch.

Whatever you’re thinking of for your funeral, be sure to consider willow. It’s a beautiful resource that won’t be the death of our planet.