Funeral director offers a greener way to say goodbye

This week, United Nations secretary general António Guterres told delegates at COP26 that the world was digging its own grave by burning fossil fuels and destroying the environment.

William Purves' Greener Goodbyes app
William Purves' Greener Goodbyes app

Now an Edinburgh-based funeral director hopes to help put a stop to that, in more ways than one, by embracing sustainability and new technology.

William Purves – Scotland’s largest independent funeral director – has launched what is thought to be the first smartphone app offering carbon neutral funerals.

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The Greener Goodbyes app that allows families to calculate the carbon footprint of funeral arrangements to reduce environmental impact.

William Purves' Greener Goodbyes app

They hope the new tool, which will be piloted initially across the Lothians, will help families to plan more sustainable funerals and contribute to global efforts to halve carbon emissions by 2050.

Chairman Tim Purves says: “Increasingly, the families we work with are looking for more

sustainable options when it comes to funeral arranging, and we are delighted to support anyone

wishing to make a greener choice.

“We are rolling the new app out across Lothian to help those interested in going green to arrange

a carbon net-zero funeral. We hope greener funerals will become the gold standard for future funeral services.”

The Greener Goodbyes app estimates the average UK funeral will require £35 in carbon credits to

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reach net-zero. Credits are then paid to accredited and established green

projects. William Purves promises to cap the charge at £30 and donate any difference from the whole funeral cost themselves.

The new app calculates the carbon footprint of a funeral based on decisions around key elements that typically make up a funeral – whether to cremate or bury, choice of coffin, means of transport, and the number of attendees.

These elements can be measured to provide a carbon footprint value equivalent. With this new knowledge, those planning funerals can choose more sustainable options or buy carbon credits to

offset the carbon cost.

The funeral firm hopes the app will give consumers the tools to make a conscious choice based on the funeral that gives the lowest carbon footprint.

Julian Atkinson, managing director of Washington-based coffin-maker JC Atkinson, co-developer of the app, says: “With sustainability high on the global agenda, we believe that the funeral sector needs to also play its part. With Greener Goodbyes we can help families make informed funeral choices and leave a lasting positive legacy that will play its part in supporting our environment.”

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This move is the latest in a series of steps William Purves has taken to help reduce the impact of the funerals it arranges on climate change.

The Bruntsfield-headquartered family firm installed solar panels last year, has introduced electric vehicle (EV) charging ports and has added EVs to its fleet.

The company is also exploring resomation, a new type of waterbased cremation that will soon be trialled in Scotland.

Greener Goodbyes will be rolled out across the rest of Scotland and in north-east England next year.

UK-wide research arranged by Ipsos Mori reveals that 33 per cent of over 50s in the UK have thought about or started planning a funeral, while 55 per cent of people expect to be offered eco-friendly coffins by their funeral director.