The death care industry is stubborn and resistant to change. However, when trends as colossal as cremation and green burial gain popularity, failing to adapt with the times is – no pun intended, a death sentence.
“The cremation rate has been increasing for many years and is now impossible for funeral directors to ignore. The cremation rate is approaching 70 percent and in some areas of the country it is even higher,” states Britnie Moniz, Western Division Sales Representative for American Crematory Equipment Co.
Even funeral homes that have been set in traditional ways for decades are finally embracing this change. The mold of what a traditional funeral looks like has been shattered and the industry is beginning to take on a new shape.
The recent distancing from traditional funerals is due to several factors. These factors include cost, environmental awareness, overall preference for a simpler celebration of life, among other reasons. Today, families want to create something unique and personalized to celebrate the life of their loved ones and cremation gives them the cost savings to do so.
While cremation continues to rise in popularity, we must note that while it is better for the environment in comparison to traditional funerals, it does still use a significant amount of fossil fuels and emit carbon.
“People in California wanted the simplest and least wasteful services and so they overwhelmingly chose cremation but at Fernwood, California’s first cemetery, I witnessed many families converting to green shroud burial when it became available as this is the very least expensive and most sustainable way to bury. Here on the West Coast, we also have increasing requests for full body sea burial in which we anticipated. This “Viking Burial “ trend with surfers and sailors inspired us to create The PacificSea Burial Shroud ™ in 2009. This trend is now growing as well,” explains Esmerelda Kent, Founder of KINKARACO.
Metal recycling services also encompass a large part of cremation – legally and environmentally.
“To a funeral home that has never done a cremation, they’re possibly scratching their head after hearing about metal recycling. But, a crematory that performs roughly 300 cremations annually can generate several hundred pounds of metal from medical and dental prosthetics. The proper way to handle this metal is to have it recycled. Neither precious nor non-precious metals are biodegradable, so throwing them out means they end up in a landfill. Additionally, being the green option, it’s also the legal option,” says Kevin McKay, Manager Cremation Division for Mid-States Recycling & Refining.
Every year, humans are leaving a larger and larger footprint on the Earth. From an environmental standpoint, it just makes sense to use less resources. Permanent urns used after cremation obviously have a much smaller footprint than a traditional burial, and biodegradable urns reduce that footprint down to nearly nothing by returning to the earth.
“From a business standpoint it is dangerous to ignore changes in consumer preference or demands. As the funeral industry follows almost all other industries – cars, energy, even cups becoming increasingly eco-friendly; you are putting your business at risk by not embracing that new demand. Many individuals live their life remaining conscious of their impact on the earth. When the time comes, these individuals are likely to look for funeral homes with the same environmental consciousness,” expounds Kilian Rempen, Marketing Manager for Passages International, Inc.
Funeral directors that truly respond to this huge shift to cremation and green burials are already ahead of the curve. They know that providing families with understandable and affordable cremation packages and pricing is imperative. Embracing this market shift is not an option any more, it is essential.
“Change is here. If your funeral home has not already adopted urn products (and especially unique, eco-friendly ones), you should do so soon otherwise you’re missing out on new revenue opportunities. If they’re not available at your funeral home and it’s something a family wants, you’ve missed an opportunity for a sale. The consumer is becoming more educated on options than ever before and is expecting the funeral home and funeral director they choose to be knowledgeable about the latest cremation-related trends and topics,” expresses Mark Brewer, President of The Living Urn.
A common misconception is that, as a funeral home, you will always make less money when providing green or natural options. The fact of the matter is that biodegradable caskets and urns are less expensive for families than steel, brass, or old-growth wood. However, the cost to funeral homes is lower, margins can be greater, and by spending less on containers families may be willing to spend more on an experience. Cremation and green burial do not need to imply “low-budget.”
Cremation and green burial options have significantly changed the death care industry in recent years. As funeral homes adapt to this shift, cemeteries will need to adapt as well. Many have already made significant changes to include memorial scattering gardens, more detailed and dedicated cremation spaces, and worked hard to keep extensive gardens for areas of reflection. Funeral homes will need to embrace technology to reach a wider audience online, to cater to those who want to make their arrangements online and maximize efficiency. Funeral homes can then service a high volume of cremation cases and offer green burial without sacrificing profits. Ultimately, families embracing these forms of disposition are forcing the death care industry to break the mold and adapt. Change is good and needed for growth.
Learn more about cremation and green burial products and services in this featured editorial. FBA
Since 1974, American Crematory has been manufacturing, servicing, and repairing cremation equipment worldwide. American Crematory carries a complete line of cremation equipment, including safety equipment, tools, supplies and parts to satisfy your cremation needs. Their factory trained technicians provide diagnostics, service and repair on all makes and models of cremation equipment on the market today. They are available to address your service needs 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
“We provide ancillary equipment such as processors, lift tables, as well as smaller items such as ID discs, urns, safety wear etc. American Crematory Equipment Co also offers service and repair on any make or model of existing equipment in the field. We are constantly improving our products to better serve the funeral industry. Funeral Homes must either outsource their cremations or purchase their own equipment to provide this service for their families in need moving forward. Either way, it adds revenue stream to the business and increases the bottom line,” describes Britnie Moniz, Western Division Sales Representative for American Crematory Equipment Co.
American Crematory Equipment Co offers turn-key solutions for new unit purchases which is extremely helpful for clients new to the industry. They take the stress out of the process by handling everything from start to finish.
ACE has a large team of factory trained full time technicians. With an average of 15 years of experience and expertise in the cremation industry, they are more than technicians they are cremation equipment specialists. ACE technicians are friendly, knowledgeable, experienced and bilingual.
“American Crematory Equipment Co is a customer service oriented driven company. We put our clients’ needs first at all time. We spend a great deal of energy engineering high quality products and equipment, so our customers then receive the best equipment on the market today. We position ourselves more so as a partner to the funeral homes to ensure their success and profitability in the cremation industry. We understand that the cremation industry economics are very different, but the fundamentals of service our clients always remain the same,” continues Britnie.
“There is a whole alternative funeral movement taking place for years now online. Some Google search for the cheapest cremation in their area while others research the Green Cemeteries and buy products online. Alternative funerals, the Death Cafes, and the conversations about green cemeteries online are running a complete parallel to the traditional funeral industry,” explains Esmerelda Kent, Founder of KINKARACO.
KINKARACO began offering Green Shroud products over 13 years ago when almost no one knew of this option. In 2008 BusinessWeek magazine included Esmerelda Kent, as one of the “Entrepreneurs Re-Inventing the Funeral Industry” and that year funeral homes began to slowly take notice.
“I find the funeral homes completely passive. A modern funeral home requires a lot more active participation than most funeral homes seem willing to engage in. Most just sit back and wait for the customers to be offered the same old tired merchandise in the same old-fashioned show rooms that no one is really interested in any more. I believe it is all based on a belief that they will lose the conventional burial customer if they offer green when actuality cremation and green burial and conventional burial should all be offered now,” Esmerelda continues.
KINKARACO designed the very first constructed shroud product for the funeral industry in 2004. It was seen on SIX FEET UNDER in 2005 in the first televised green burial. This PURELIGHT™ shroud looks like a simple wrapped shroud from the front but has the features needed by funeral homes and green cemeteries like a strong back, handles for carrying, straps for lowering and a board for stability inside the shroud. In 2009, KINKARACO designed the first cremation shroud made of 100% Silk in the tradition of the brightly colored shrouds used for cremation in India.
“From the beginning we have offered GREEN BURIAL WASH ™ topical aromatic body washes for preparation of the body. In 2012, we introduced for cemeteries, a handmade Victorian reproduction KINKARA-KART Processional vehicle to load shrouds, caskets, from the paved parking lots to “off road” green burial plots in any terrain. These have been very popular,” she adds.
When it comes to recycling, it’s vital to work only with an EPA-permitted facility to ensure the crematory is handling the metals in compliance with CFR 40. This regulation is in place to make sure metals are being recycled, rather than ending up in a landfill. Mid-States has operated their 19,000 square foot, EPA-permitted recycling facility since 1982. They allow all their customers and prospective customers to tour the facility and even watch the processing of the high value metals for peace-of-mind.
“When speaking to a prospective client, they always want to know if we are the middleman or the actual recycler. This is an important question to ask because there are so many companies marketing to crematories as recyclers, and virtually all of them operate as middlemen. We are a recycler,” explains Kevin McKay, Manager Cremation Division for Mid-States Recycling & Refining.
Mid-States Recycling Process:
1-Receive, Log and Track: When the containers arrive at the facility, Mid-States logs in the customer’s shipment, which includes creating a customer profile and noting exact weights.
2-Sort: The customer’s lot goes into the sorting room where metals are sorted according to their type. (e.g. Implants, dental, medical)
3-Mix: Copper and flux are added to precious metals prior to smelting. Copper is instrumental in helping all metals to alloy with each other.
4-Smelt: The appropriate sized furnace is selected based on weight and metal type. The mixture is smelted (liquified by heat) into a homogenous bar.
5-Sample: During the smelting Mid-States takes a “pin” sample of the liquid metal. Then they take the sample material and create four specimens that are representative of the whole bar.
6-Pour: The molten metal is poured into an appropriate sized mold for cooling and hardening.
7-Assay: Using one of the samples, an assay is performed to determine the precise metal composition of the bar. Mid-States then performs a quick X-ray fluorescence analysis in the presence of their customers for immediate results. These results can be used to calculate reimbursement while the client waits.
8-Reimburse: Mid-States then takes the percentages of metal determined by the assay and divides them by the weight of the bar to determine the exact amount of each metal. They reimburse customers based on the publicly published market prices for each metal.
“It is more important than ever to take a lesson from the history books: ignoring change can be disastrous. Our industry is seeing a push towards alternative services, green funerals, and especially cremation. When consumer demands evolve how they are now, companies that can rise-up and meet the new demands prosper; while those that remain entrenched in old ways – insistent that they know what consumers will prefer better than the consumers themselves – fall by the wayside. As more and more people live environmentally-conscious lives, there will be an increasing demand for earth-friendly end-of-life options,” states Kilian Rempen, Marketing Manager for Passages International, Inc.
Kilian explains that a common misconception among today’s funeral homes, is that you will always make less money when providing green or natural options. The fact of the matter is that biodegradable caskets and urns are less expensive to families than steel, brass, or old-growth wood. However, the cost to funeral homes is lower, margins can be greater, and by spending less on containers families may be willing to spend more on an experience. Cremation and green burial do not need to imply low-budget.
“Many funeral directors have told us that families that have participated in a natural burial often seem more fulfilled. They feel that the services were more meaningful, more unique and less cookie-cutter. A green burial is not so different from a traditional service. Often, they are less formal, more relaxed services that can be easier to perform for the funeral home staff, but there are many similarities and will mostly be familiar to those accustomed to traditional burials,” she adds.
Passages offers a full range of eco-friendly caskets and coffins suitable for green burial or cremation, as well as a vast selection of urns that are biodegradable in water or in the earth. Many of their urns come in both full and smaller sizes, providing families the option to split up remains if they choose to have their loved one laid to rest in multiple locations. Passages also offers permanent and semi-permanent urns, and custom memorial jewelry made with cremains or hair, for families wishing to keep either a part of their loved one’s remains close by or wanting to hold onto the remains until they feel ready to bury them in the earth or at sea, when the biodegrading process will begin. Passages offers education to both funeral professionals and the public on how to have a greener funeral and assist with marketing displays and website materials for green products.
“We believe more and more funeral homes will offer ceremonies around cremation memorials as time goes on. For our Living Urn product, many of the funeral homes we work with currently arrange planting ceremonies for families – and, these have been some of the most amazing and touching testimonials we’ve received. In addition, we believe that more funeral homes will offer full service plantings of The Living Urn at a cemetery or participating Memory Forest. Funeral directors need to know the options available for cremation clientele and the latest and greatest trends. Green options are becoming more and more popular and they should be available at the funeral home and in the showroom. It’s a low-cost investment with potentially large dividends,” states Mark Brewer, President of The Living Urn.
The Living Urn is focused around cremation and green burial. They offer highly unique and affordable eco-friendly urns, including The Living Urn (urn that grows a tree), Eco Scattering (a line of bamboo scattering urns), Eco Burial (a bamboo burial urn), and Eco Water (a new, proprietary urn that floats and slowly disperses cremated remains in a body of water). With their low wholesale pricing, their products are high margin cremation products for funeral homes. They have hundreds of funeral homes who carry these and continue to reorder on a regular basis.
“We provide one-of-a-kind products that are truly eco-friendly, highly functional and are priced reasonably to the funeral homes. We also have very strong customer service based in Denver to answer any questions about our products that your funeral directors or families may have. We are in it for the long-term and want decades long partnerships with funeral homes,” Mark expounds.
The Living Urn provides unique, high margin, eco-friendly cremation urns that have become a cornerstone of many funeral home showrooms nationwide. They guarantee that with a few samples of their products, they’ll sell themselves, otherwise they’ll buy them back – no questions asked.
The Living Urn is currently offering a summer promotion of 10% off all orders when a funeral home orders six or more (can be a combination of The Living Urn, Scattering Urns, Burial Urns, etc.).