A traditional funeral in North America today costs between seven thousand and ten thousand dollars. There are many details that contribute to this price, including the services at the funeral home, burial in a cemetery, and the cost of a gravestone. The most expensive aspect of a funeral can often be the casket itself. Traditional coffins can cost over two thousand dollars . A group in Australia has come up with a more cost-effective alternative to a traditional casket: cardboard coffins.
The Community Coffin Club in northwest Tasmania normally makes wooden coffins. As members have been trying to lower the cost of funerals, however, they’ve switched to a different material: cardboard.
The cardboard coffins are much cheaper than a casket made of wood. You can also easily decorate them, and they come as a flatpack.
Jenny Cox’s brother-in-law Phil died a few months ago. The family decided that a cardboard coffin is exactly what he would have wanted. They chose a cardboard coffin.
“This coffin was made out of bioboard so it was a compostable coffin and that really fitted with his values and the things he believed in,” she said .
Adding a Personal Touch
Cox said that her brother-in-law loved to be outside and was a strong environmentalist. He was also a Vietnam veteran and lover of comic books. He particularly loved Phantom comics and had been collecting them for the past fifty years. For this reason, they ended up painting the phantom on his coffin.
Cox says that the process of painting helps you to feel calm and centered. It helped her to grieve and heal.
“So it actually helped me immensely,” she said. “Just the physical process of being still and painting.” 
Cox has now painted three coffins. She says that by offering to paint the cardboard coffins for other people, she can take a layer of stress out of their lives. She adds that talking about the design and what to put on it can help the people who are grieving.
“When someone dies you feel so helpless, and everybody says what can I do to help and there really isn’t anything anyone can do,” she said .
Artist Emma Dean buried her brother in a traditional coffin three years ago. She says that a decorated cardboard coffin would have been a much better option.
“Just bringing people together in that time where they’re grieving and coming together in those quiet times and just writing on a coffin or painting it together, it’s really beautiful,” she said .
Cardboard Coffins Help Cut Funeral Costs
Cox says that when a loved one dies, the friends and family are often so grief-stricken that they want to make sure they get only the very best for that person.
“People think ‘my mother is the most important person in the world to me so of course we’ll have the $2,000 coffin and the $5,000 handles’ — it’s nuts,” she said .
She acknowledged that while that may be what some people need, there are other ways to express your love. It doesn’t have to revolve around money- it could simply involve attention, care, and kindness. Cardboard coffins provide people with an opportunity to do exactly that.
Cardboard Coffins are Better for the Environment
As an added side-benefit, cardboard coffins are better for the environment than traditional wood coffins. Every year, conventional burials in the United States use 30 million board feet of hardwoods, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 104,272 tons of steel, and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete.
The amount of wood to make the caskets alone is equivalent to about four million acres of forest. You could use that amount of wood instead to build 4.5 million homes .
The cardboard coffins are compostable, and don’t require near the amount of resources that traditional coffins use. If you are concerned about the environment, a cardboard casket may be a better option.
For now, these cardboard coffins are only available in Australia. That being said, there is no reason why North American groups can’t start their own initiatives. As funeral costs continue to rise, more and more families will be looking for options like this.
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