Green Funerals and Green Burials

Green burial

Environmental issues, such as energy conservation, preservation of natural resources, and the use of biodegradable products are of increasing concern to many people. As more people are “going green,” the funeral industry is beginning to offer a variety of green services for those who wish to leave the world with minimal impact on the environment.

According to the Green Burial Council, a green (or natural) burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. It aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials.

What is a green funeral?

A green funeral incorporates environmentally-friendly options. This may include no embalming or chemical-free embalming and the use of cardboard, bamboo, or jute coffins, shrouds, or biodegradable urns. A green funeral service incorporates the use of recycled paper for programs, locally-grown organic flowers and/or food, carpooling from location to location, and arranging a small memorial gathering in a natural setting.

What is a natural or green burial?

A natural or green burial means the body is not embalmed and is placed in a biodegradable casket, shroud, or favorite blanket without a concrete vault. Traditional standing headstones are not permitted with this type of burial. Instead, flat rocks, plants, or trees may serve as grave markers.

What is a green cemetery?

A green cemetery is a natural burial site that does not permit vaults, non-biodegradable caskets, or embalming chemicals. A natural burial site promotes growth of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, which brings birds and other wildlife to the area. In a green cemetery, water is not wasted and chemicals are not used to control nature.

Is cremation a green option?

There is some debate about whether cremation is considered “green” because the cremation process uses nonrenewable fossil fuels and produces airborne emissions. However, crematoriums have made significant reductions in emissions, cremation uses fewer resources than conventional forms of disposition, and cremated remains do not need to be interred in a cemetery, which reduces land use.

Are there alternatives to burial?

There are several creative alternatives to burial. A couple of options gaining in popularity are eternal reefs and memorial diamonds.

An eternal reef is made by combining cremated remains with a natural concrete to create a concrete-like reef ball. Each reef contains a bronze plaque with a dedication. Families are able to take a boat to the final site and watch as their family member’s reef is placed into the ocean. Within a few months, plants grow on the reefs and organisms make it a home.

Much like a cubic zirconia, which is made by compressing carbon matter, a memorial diamond is made by compressing cremated remains into a variety of colors, and then placed into jewelry setting.

How much does a green burial cost?

A green burial can often saves families thousands of dollars. The average cost for a green burial is between $1,000 and $4,000 which is significantly less than the cost of a traditional funeral. This is because many of the traditional expenses are eliminated; such as the embalming, the ornate metal casket, grave liner and headstone.

Define Your Wishes

Only you know what arrangement make sense for you. Conduct research to determine what actions you want your family to take after you’re gone, and then make sure your family knows what you’ve decided. Put it in writing to avoid confusion and to ensure your wishes will be carried out.

While green burials are becoming more common, there are still a limited number of burial cemeteries. Talk with a funeral director to understand what options are available to you.


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