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Died in the Wool: The Latest in Green Coffins

<p>Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun, news like this crosses your desk, making even one's inevitable passing to the Great Beyond a potentially environmentally friendly experience.</p>

There are times that a news announcement crosses my desk that is just impossible to pass up. Sometimes it's breaking news, a great success story, a business innovation, or a far-out concept that seems unbelievable and thus irresistible.

You can file this item in that last category. I have two words for you: Woolen coffins.

It seems that two British companies, coffin-maker JC Atkinson and textile specialty firm Hainsworth, have teamed up in a way that is both predictable but unexpected (coffins + textiles = wool coffins, naturally).

The coffins come in both wool and cotton varietals. The wool is 100 percent local, while the cotton is sourced to meet the Global Organic Textile Standard for sustainability.

Here's what the Swaledale wool coffin looks like:

Click here for a closeup showing some detail.

In addition to local wool and sustainably sourced cotton, the coffins are reinforced with 100 percent recycled cardboard. As a result, they are biodegradable, which meet the growing demand for green burials.

The woolen death-bins are just the latest addition to a line of environmentally friendly products from JC Atkinson. From the company's website:

The majority of coffins are made using oak, mahogany and elm style veneers, which are laminated on to chipboard or medium density fibre board (MDF). All are Forest Stewardship Council certified. The coffins are made in a factory with low CO2 emissions, using green electricity powered by our own carbon neutral biomass generator.[...]

We wanted to be unbeatable in leading the environmental way in coffin manufacturing, by having the first low carbon technology coffin making factory. To do this we:
1. Reduced our electricity consumption by installing energy efficient equipment.
2. Installed our own combined heat and power generator. This burns our waste wood to supply all our electricity requirements and supply excess to the national grid and it supplies the hot water needed for our automated heating tunnel, this would facilitate the change from VOC to water based polishes.

The greening of deathcare is nothing new, of course; back in 2008 we had an in-depth article from Andrew Whitaker discussing the greening of the American funeral home, and way back in 2001 the BBC ran a story about bamboo caskets.

But enough with the straight news angle for this story. Some random tidbits:

1. is taken. Sorry to break it to you.
2. JC Atkinson is on Twitter. @greenercoffins. Despite the relative dearth of "tweets," there are some heretofore unprecedented phrases contained therein: "Some stunning coffin design work" pretty much sums it up.

That appears to be a woolen casket at the mannequin's feet. Full-sized version here.

3. Hainsworth, which as a company is 226 years old, also makes the outfits for the iconic Queen's Guards. This factoid goes a long way toward explaining the photo at the right.
4. Among the many fascinating comments that traveled around our editorial team's chatroom while discussing this piece:"At least no one is complaining about the itchiness of the wool coffins," "Vegans can have the cotton coffins," "If only Michael Jackson's family knew about this," and a host of great euphemisms for woolen or cotton coffins, including:

"comfy cocoon of death"
"wooly tomb"
and the hands-down winner, "six feet under wear."

Now back to your regularly scheduled green business coverage...

Photo illustration uses CC-licensed photos by Flickr users loop_oh and law_keven.

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