For those of you that have been calling and writing to ask how Elemental is green, I figured I would give you the long answer in blog format. Not because I want to skip the answer, but because I feel that the answer comes in a couple of flavors: the non-technical and the geek version. I never know exactly how to answer when people ask. It’s a very broad question and it is a topic that I’m very passionate about, so here we go with the non-technical.
When I started Elemental, it was because we didn’t have a funeral home in Seattle that was “green.” There were a few firms offering tree plantings, or a handful of eco-friendly options, but there wasn’t a funeral home that was modeled as a sustainable company. To that end, the framework was laid for a company that could grow with a core set of values with the environment as a central part of the decision-making process.
The core values are known in business parlance as “The Triple Bottom Line,” and the values are Company, People, Environment. Let’s look at those individually to see how they make Elemental green:
Elemental’s mission is “To make a positive global impact by serving our families the way they ask to be served.” What this means to us is that we can make positive changes to our planet by accommodating each family’s request in a way that respects our Earth. In order to achieve this, we need to focus on some traditional business practices, so that we can ensure our mission is present in the community long-term.
“People” refers to anyone that we come in contact with – client families, our employees, our neighborhoods, our vendors and our competition. When we make decisions that keep the goals of everyone involved in mind, we can have a positive bottom line. It also means that wherever possible, we seek to keep our relationships local. By keeping relationships local, we reduce travel, delivery and shipping costs and keep money in the community that we serve. Additionally, by acting locally to improve waterways, forests, and air quality, we have a better opportunity for oversight.
Taking care of people is what any business seeks to do. There are no businesses out there that can exist without people, so they better be in your bottom line decision process to make things better for everyone.
What does it mean to be a green business? What is carbon neutral? What is environmental stewardship? All of these questions are HUGE, and can be written at length. What it means to take the environment into consideration at Elemental is that we seek to do the most good (or least harm) in every decision process that we make. For example – we selected Sprint for our cell phone carrier because of their environmental record. The same goes for our web host GreenGeeks. When developing processes and procedures, are we seeking to minimize waste and stress on our natural resources? Yep. From our vehicle selection to our product lines, we look to find the most sustainable ways to go about it.
So then, when you look at the Triple Bottom Line, you can see where the framework for being a “Green Company” comes from. What specifically is “green” about this? Don’t you cremate people? Isn’t driving a van with bodies in it just belching carbon into the air?
Yep – it is.
BUT, it is what you do to minimize the carbon output (see the framework above) and what you do to offset or “sequester” the carbon after it’s emitted. More on the details of these terms in Part Two of this post (if you’re interested in the real page turner details of greening a funeral home).
The brief answer to how we get rid of carbon output is that we do tree plantings to sequester that carbon that we can’t avoid producing.
Here’s the reality:
In the vast landscape of American industry, the funeral business is a pretty small fraction of industries causing environmental issues and contributing to environmental losses. The amount of carbon emitted in cremations across the lands is astonishingly small when compared to the output of nasty from the airline industry. Cremating grandpa is like a gnat fart when you compare it to the carbon dump that Aunt Janice took to get here from Florida. Trust me – I was in the aviation business and I’ve seen the data.
Do I say that because it doesn’t matter what we do at the end of our lives? NOOOO!!! I say that to give us some perspective. Like cutting the rings on the six pack holder plastic, it’s one of many things we can do to begin to responsibly tend to our mess. And these small choices add up, when you consider the billions of people currently inhabiting our planet.
When you make environmentally-based end of life choices, you are opting for a practical and symbolic act that shows a lifetime of dedication to something that should be of primary importance to us all: A clean Earth not only for your enjoyable, healthy, and rewarding life, but a clean Earth for generations to come.