Options for Green Burial
What is Green Burial?
Green burials and natural burials are a relatively “new” practice based on techniques used by some cultures for thousands of years.
Green burial generally means that the body, which is not embalmed, is buried in an eco-friendly casket or shroud at a green cemetery or burial ground. This allows the deceased's body to return to the earth as quickly as possible through the most natural process.
Find the Best Green Burial Professionals
Our Providers & Cemeteries page is an excellent tool to find funeral professionals near you. Cemeteries on this map are all green cemeteries, preservation cemeteries, or have a section dedicated to green/natural burials. Funeral homes on this map are certified AGF Providers and offer biodegradable urns and eco-friendly caskets.
A green burial may take place in a conventional modern cemetery or in a green cemetery or natural burial ground that uses eco-friendly methods. In a green burial, graves are dug by hand and concrete vaults or grave liners are not used. Learn more about green cemeteries or find one near you.
The practice of marking graves is an important part of remembering the dead and dealing with loss. The way in which you mark a grave can be a greener choice as well. Natural cemeteries often plant trees or shrubs in place of headstones, tablets and other common markers. Planting local flora on or near the grave creates a living memorial and helps create habitat for wildlife. Some cemeteries now offer geocoding to help find your or your loved one’s final resting place.
In a conventional cemetery, choose the minimum size of headstone allowed. Try to find a local monument builder who uses indigenous rather than imported stone, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of production and transportation.
Full Body Sea Burial
For centuries the burial of the deceased at sea has been common in many cultures. This method of final disposition is popular among those that have spent much of their lives at sea. Depending on how this is carried out, it can be a greener form of burial.
There are several companies that will conduct a full-body burial at sea. Some of them have their own proprietary shrouds in which the un-embalmed body is placed before being laid to rest at sea.
Greener Choices in a Conventional Cemetery
Even in a conventional cemetery you can still choose a greener burial. Use a green casket or a shroud. If possible, decline the use of a concrete vault or liner. Vaults and liners are designed to prevent the ground from sinking in when the casket and body decompose. This makes it easier to maintain the manicured, level lawns we associate with modern memorial parks, but it wastes a lot of resources.
Many conventional cemeteries require either a vault or grave liner, but this practice may change if more people reject it. A greener option is a liner with no bottom, which allows the body or casket to rest in the earth. There are also conventional cemeteries that are beginning to allow vault-less burial anywhere in the cemetery.
If this option is available, there are often additional charges to prepare the grave prior to burial and to maintain it after burial. These charges can equal or exceed the costs of a vault or liner.
What About Embalming?
Can Embalming be Green?
For those who choose embalming, there are now several formaldehyde-free, biodegradable embalming fluids, usually made from essential oils, that will adequately preserve the body for up to several weeks. Dry ice is another option, often used when transporting a body. Green embalming is not only healthier for the Earth, but also for the funeral home employees preparing the body. Most green funeral providers will have green embalming options. The sanitation and preservation of a body can almost always take place without the use of chemicals, as is done in most nations in the world.