Return to Sender: the innovative casket design that’s environmentally considered

By jay

Bringing a new meaning to ‘end of life solutions’, New Zealand’s leading funeral provider, Davis Funerals, now uses only environmentally-considered caskets designed by Return To Sender.

Transforming the funeral industry, Davis Funerals has replaced all its MDF (medium density fibreboard) caskets – a combination of wood pulp and glue with plastic handles and fixtures and synthetic materials that aren’t biodegradable – with the more environmentally considered alternative.

Leanne Holdsworth, Managing Director at Return to Sender, says, “All caskets have an environmental impact, but at Return to Sender we keep that as small as possible by designing the environment into the product right at the outset. Most of our caskets are made from pine, some from ply and finishings are natural (such as water based paints and waxes), locking mechanisms are natural (wood and leather). We basically are constantly on the look out for how to make the casket as naural as possible. We also plant a native tree for every casket made.”

A world-first life cycle assessment has just been undertaken by Think-Step on behalf of Return to Sender. Both the caskets and urns were compared with the MDF and plastic alternatives and the Return to Sender products have proven to be much better for the environment than the alternative.  

Return to Sender, before merging with Davis Funerals, held one per cent of the funeral market. After the vertical integration the market share has grown to six per cent and continues to grow steadily.

Return to Sender continues to address the issue of commonly-used plastic urns for ashes following cremation, which often end up in landfill, replacing them with wooden urns made of pine.

“In New Zealand, we use 20,000 plastic urns per year and of those urns we have replaced 7,000 of them with wooden urns,” says Leanne.

Neil Little, Managing Director of Davis Funerals, says that while families often don’t arrive at funerals looking for environmentally considered casket they find it affirming that the option is given for one.

“Ethics and trust are an important part of what we do and we wanted to expand our circle of care to the environment.”