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Low Carbon Funerals

A platform to plan low carbon funerals, including purchasing of low carbon goods and services to reduce and offset the environmental impact.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Written by

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This idea is targeting the growing number of environmentally conscious people worldwide who want to ensure that their death has the lowest impact possible, so they can simply and easily leave a green legacy. It allows people to calculate and offset the carbon impact of their death and to offset this by investing in specific local and international green grassroots projects.

Traditional means of burial and cremation have a high carbon footprint. It is reported that “Cremating one corpse requires two to three hours and more than 1,800 degrees of heat — enough energy to release 573 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, environmental analysts have calculated” (source 1).

Furthermore, many of the funerals I have been to have flowers, which also have a water and carbon footprint (source 2). 

However, more and more people are becoming environmentally conscious. Therefore, why aren’t funerals more environmentally friendly? Why don’t they have an option for people to leave a green legacy? Many people ask for money at a funeral for a local charity. Why can’t they also ask for donations for local grassroots green and environmentally friendly projects?

My idea is a website that provides information and advice on planning a green funeral and leaving a green legacy. 

This is site also has an e-commerce platform, which links to suppliers of green goods and services for a funeral with their estimated footprint. 

There is also an option to select green projects they would like to fund as part of their legacy. 

The person can plan their funeral using this site and, on their death, people attending the funeral can receive a link to all the different green projects the person would like mourners to fund.

Years later on the day of the funeral mourners can receive email updates on the green projects as part of a legacy of that person. 




What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Discuss with a local funeral director the carbon footprint of various funeral options Survey the local community to determine demand and an acceptable price point (% mark-up) on goods and services Connect with local and international green grassroots projects to determine demand and possible options for users of the site Identify companies and individuals providing goods and services that are low carbon and would be interested in being part of the site

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Survey their local community to determine demand and an acceptable price point (% mark-up) on goods and services Connect with developers and designers that could help produce an early prototype of the site for feedback with the target market

Tell us about your work experience:

I have a background in entrepreneurship and innovation and have previously worked in market research and intelligence.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of marco mihambo

Hello Kate Rushton! thanks for sharing your innovative and promising ideas .....keep it up..... I would also like to request you if you don't mind to pass through my idea under feedback stage and advise accordingly for further improvement from the title, its modes if operation and others e.t.c

Photo of Gurdeep Aujla

Hi Kate, I believe you previously viewed my idea ILUM-A-FRIDGE, could you have a look at my new idea Cool Bowl and let me know what you think.


Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Everyone! Sorry I have not been focused on this challenge recently. I will see what I can do in the next 24 hours. 

Photo of Paul Ennis

Kate - Are you aware of the Green Burial Council - ? Their website is chock full of info and resources related to your idea. Just an FYI... - PWE

Photo of OpenIDEO

Welcome to the refinement phase Kate! Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:

1. How might this idea address the unique needs of the target audience you're designing for?
2. Clearly summarize the value offering of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps
4. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value offering:
5. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.

Also, any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 07/12" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Angel Landeros

I thought you might find this different take on sustainable burials interesting:
I know they also have a lot of data on the impact standard burials and cremations have on the environment.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Kate, interesting idea. It reminded me a talk we had during our NYC openIDEO meeting: You might want to check the work of the Death Lab (mentioned in the post) as they have been exploring solutions around this issue. Looking forward to seeing the idea evolve.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Kate, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of James Senior

Hi Kate, thanks for your idea - this is really great. The words "ashes to ashes" jump to mind, and that our funeral rites (in the West at least) are in a way already rooted in a connection to the earth and a "return". Some Native American philosophies in the southwest posit that we come from earth, and science confirms that we are made of the same stuff as stardust :) The idea, not just the website, but the *concept* of paying greater attention to the environmental aspects of burial is rich with possibilities. I wonder what funeral homes, who must be having this conversation already, might have to say that would inform your idea with some user research? If you haven't already, speaking to a few about whether environmental concerns (carbon footprint etc.) are coming up in conversation about burials with families might be interesting.  

The other aspect of your idea that I like is exploring the neat tie in between how we think about our individual "legacy" throughout our life, not just at the end, and how we are a global society thinking about our collective legacy - what state are we leaving the planet in? Sometimes when I am walking through a cemetery I notice that the size of one's legacy tends to be correlated to the size of one's mausoleum (see the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal for example) or how high up it is on a hill - both confirm the status and importance of the person. I wonder if you can you connect status and legacy together in a way that would further your concept and goals for end of life?  You mention building a website as a good idea, but an educational site is only one aspect of this exploration I think - what else could there be? This is really great and contemporary - please keep going! 

Photo of Aii Arisma

Hi Kate, excellent idea to create a website on a green funeral. Perhaps you can also include some of the options like tree burial concept like Grow as A Tree When You Die  and eco-friendly coffin as recommend by Shauna Curry . I agree on the movement to reduce and offset the environmental impact, particularly from the funeral activity. This idea needs to be widely spread.