Environmentally Friendly Funerals

Our own funeral marks the end of our call on the earth’s resources and, just as in life, involves a number of choices with more or less impact on the environment. These include whether or not to embalm, the type of casket used and, finally, burial or cremation.

About embalming & formaldehyde

Our embalming fluids use formaldehyde as a preservative. Formaldehyde is the simplest aldehyde with the chemical formula HCHO. Formalin is a solution of formaldehyde in water, usually with a small amount of methanol added. It is widely used as an antiseptic, disinfectant and preservative for biological materials.

Care must be taken with the use of embalming fluids in the mortuary as formaldehyde is a known irritant. We follow the FDANZ code of practice for the use of chemicals in our mortuary and ensure minimum waste and discharge.

Modern formaldehyde based embalming fluids are much kinder to the environment than those used in previous years. Historically, arsenic has been a serious contaminant associated with cemeteries. Formaldehyde does build up in the environment but breaks down due to natural processes in the soil.

The decision on whether to request embalming is entirely up to you. We are able to offer embalming at different levels.

1. No Embalming

The body will be bathed in an eco friendly solution. The mouth and eyes will be cleaned and closed. Finally the hair is washed, brushed and styled as it was in life.

When no embalming is carried out, you need to consider that the body will decompose. This process can only be slowed down by refrigeration, and this needs to be done as soon as possible after death.

You may take the body home but need to be aware of the risk of odour and fluids discharging. Closing the casket will not stop this process and some caskets will not offer complete water-proofing.

The funeral should take place as soon as possible.

2. Light Embalming

The body will be bathed in an eco friendly solution. The mouth and eyes will be cleaned and closed. Finally the hair is washed, brushed and styled as it was in life.

There will be no arterial embalming, but a low index formaldehyde solution will be placed into the abdominal cavity region to slow down bacterial growth.

The light embalming option may allow a deceased to be at home for a limited amount of time. However each body is different and therefore no guarantees may be made as to how long the body will be in a satisfactory condition.

3. Low Index Embalming Option

The low index option will mean that the body is arterially embalmed with low index formaldehyde based fluids. The abdominal region will also be treated with the lowest index embalming fluid.

The body will be washed in an eco friendly solution, the mouth and eyes will be cleaned and closed. Finally the hair is washed, brushed and styled as it was in life.
The body will be in a suitable condition for it to be returned home without fear of unacceptable odour, or body fluid discharges. While each body is different, the light embalming option will generally allow up to three days of viewing before the casket should be closed.

Eco Friendly Casket Options

The most popular caskets in New Zealand are made of custom-wood (used in 95% cases). The production process for custom-wood requires many chemicals, and a large amount of energy. The custom-wood product may be cheap and easily obtainable but at a high price to the environment.

Our Eco friendly caskets have the minimum amount of glue, and are lined with untreated calico. All products are sourced from suppliers who are aware of our company policy to ensure that service is delivered in a way that protects the environment for future generations.

We wish to offer you the following casket options:


While we are able to source a cardboard casket, they are restrictive in their use. We are working with our suppliers and exploring options for the future.

Radiata Pine

The untreated radiata pine caskets come from a renewable resource supporting our local economy. The timber is sourced from New Zealand grown plantation forests.

The pine casket is available in 2 styles: shaped or rectangular. The timbers are untreated and the rectangular casket contains no glue. The casket is able to be carried by pine handles. The lining is made of untreated calico and is of simple appearance.


Burial Verses Cremation

While burials have been traditional in New Zealand the number of cremations has increased rapidly over the past few years. This is largely due to the scarcity of land, particularly around our major cities, and consequently the high cost of burial plots.

The most environmentally friendly option is burial in a wilderness area where the body returns to the earth to break down under natural processes. However this option is not yet available to most New Zealanders. We do not have any ‘living legacy’ burial grounds that are growing in popularity overseas. In these, burials are carefully placed within a natural environment and trees are planted to provide park like surroundings for all to enjoy.


The cremation process requires combustion provided by an electric arc over natural gas. Fans are used to ensure that oxygen is fed into the unit at the correct rate to ensure efficient burning takes place. The process takes approximately 3 hours and only one person is cremated at a time. As each cremation is completed, heat is retained in the bricks of the cremator. Therefore the more cremations that take place in a day, the more efficient the cremator becomes.

Our crematorium is one of the most environmentally friendly in the world. It uses a process where all exhaust gases are re-ignited to ensure that the discharges to the atmosphere are kept to a minimum. All embalming chemicals are completely destroyed by the cremation process. No plastics are cremated at any time so pollutant emissions are kept to a minimum whether you choose an eco-friendly funeral option or not.

Cremation does use scarce energy resources and contributes to the production of greenhouse gases. However modern, properly operated crematoria do minimize this impact.

Ashes can be returned to you in a radiata pine urn or a cardboard box wrapped in recycled paper.


The burial process uses a large area of land. This can be reduced if other members of the family are buried in the same plot. The first burial is prepared at ‘double depth’ or, at some cemeteries, even ‘triple depth’.

All embalming chemicals will break down due to natural processes in the soil. They do not remain as formaldehyde in the ground.

Natural Burial Ground – Clareville Cemetery Carterton.

 In July 2017 the Carterton District Council opened their long awaited Natural Burial Ground at the Clareville Cemetery, Chester Road, Carterton.

Edibility for burial in the Natural Burial Ground requires that there is no embalming, the caskets are from a natural resource approved by Natural burials, and that no permanent memorial can be placed on the grave.

The burial takes place in the upper active soil layer and graves are filled with aerobic, organically active soil, over-planted with a Totara tree.  A totara grave marker is placed on the grave.

There are other Natural Burial cemeteries available around New Zealand.  The other closest certified one being at Makara Cemetery Wellington.

For more information feel free to contact one of the staff at Richmond Funeral Home.