Choosing not to embalm is a significant way to have a greener funeral. Embalming is not known to have any environmental or health benefits and is only rarely required by law, such as in some instances of interstate transport of the remains or following death by infectious disease. Contrary to popular belief, an unembalmed body will not spread disease in the surrounding environment, according to the Center for Disease Control. Also, embalming fluids are generally formaldehyde-based. Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used in many preservative materials and construction materials such as particleboard, and while it is a naturally occurring chemical, which readily biodegrades in the ground and in the air, it is also recognized as a carcinogen by the EPA, and is known to cause adverse health effects over long periods of exposure. A study by the National Cancer Institute released in late 2009 revealed that funeral directors have a much higher incidence of myeloid leukemia.
Alternative, more eco-friendly methods of preserving a body are available.