To promote sustainable development and the use of eco-coffins, Lingnan University in Hong Kong (LU)’s Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI) has taken the lead in developing dual-use coffins as furniture for environmental purposes. The Lingnan University team is collaborating with Forget Thee Not, a social enterprise promoting green burial and funerals, to design furniture that can be conveniently reassembled into coffins. They aim to add a personal and heartfelt touch to honour the deceased, and the coffins are also more ecologically sustainable and cost-effective than the traditional funeral and burial process.
Coffins represent different values, religious backgrounds and stories across different cultures and customs, which make the burial process more meaningful. In order to promote eco-friendly funerals, LEI designed a bookshelf to house ornaments, books and documents, which can easily be converted into a coffin.
These coffins are made of sustainable, high-quality birch and spruce plywood from northern European forests, and fulfil strict requirements for wood-based materials in terms of environmental friendliness, strength and durability. The LU team, following the “Restriction on Coffins” of the Cremation and Gardens of Remembrance Regulation (Chapter 132M), has assembled a prototype that complies with Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) standards and regulations.
Dr Albert Ko Wing-yin, Director of the Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative and leader of the project, said that people purchase a new coffin for cremation, which is a waste of resources. “We are taking the initiative in introducing new ways and means of protecting the environment by redesigning the coffin and improving its functions and usability. People can have a set of environmentally friendly bookshelves that literally last a lifetime, and then accompany them for the funeral rituals.”
Ms. Grace Yeung, Executive Director of Forget Thee Not explained that the project encourages end-of-life pre-planning within the family to achieve the goal of a good death and to promote inter-generational harmony. In traditional Chinese culture, the coffin is often prepared by family members and kept at home as there are no funeral facilities in the countryside. “Nowadays people always neglect end-of-life planning. It is important for families to plan ahead,” she added.
Sponsored by LU’s Support Fund for 2020 Graduates, LEI has recruited two students to work on this project and will continue to collaborate with Forget Thee Not, training students to organise public education events and workshops to promote coffins as furniture and planning for end-of-life care.