Green burial is a simple and environmentally friendly way of burial where bodies are not cremated or preserved with any form of chemicals. The dead are placed in a biodegradable coffin then interred without the use of a concrete burial vault.
As such, the grave site will be allowed to return to its natural state, without any marks of headstones or tomb sites as is always the case with the conventional way of laying people to rest. The goal of green burial is to ensure the complete decomposition of the human body and its ultimate return to the soil. Yeah, that’s the only way you can achieve the.., “ashes return to ashes and dust to dust” .
Table of Contents
- 1 Types of Natural Burial Cemeteries
- 2 Why Choose Green Burials
- 3 Funeral Arrangements for Green Burial
- 4 Burial or cremation
- 5 The Service
- 6 Intermittent
- 7 The products for the burial
- 8 The type of casket to use
- 9 Financing
- 10 Discussing With Your Family
- 11 Finding Natural Burial Homes and Cemeteries
- 12 About the Green Burial Council
- 13 How to choose a natural cemetery
- 14 What to do if there is no green burial place around
- 15 Final Words
Types of Natural Burial Cemeteries
Green burial grounds are classified according to the degree to which they are willing to conserve and preserve the natural resources and environment. To that effect, there are three categories of such grounds, and they are as follows-:
Hybrid Burial Ground – this is what would pass as the conventional cemeteries, but they allow burials to be done without using the conventional outer burial containers or burial vaults, but they allow for burials to happen in any biodegradable container, including burial in a shroud.
Natural Burial Ground–A natural burial ground will not allow burial to take place in containers made of anything else but natural or plant-derived materials. Additionally, natural burial grounds have pesticide-free Integrated Management system which implies that the control of pests is done using environmental and natural practices. Note that, chemicals may be harmful to the landscape and the ecology of the area if used.
Conservation Burial Grounds–conservation burial grounds observe the strictest standards of the three categories of natural burial cemeteries. Other than meeting the basic standards of a natural burial ground, a conservation burial ground must engage the services of a professional conservation body to be holding a conservation easement on the ground, or they must have in place what is termed as a “deed restriction” to guarantee long-term stewardship. Without any deed restraint, the ground may be operated with a nonprofit conservation organization or a government agency designated as a public charity by the Internal Revenue Service for not less than five years.
Why Choose Green Burials
You guessed it; it’s true Green burials are not new. You will be surprised to know that most burials that happened before the mid-19th century took this format. It still is rampant today and very common amongst the Jews and Muslims who prefer to bury their loved ones using these methods. The resurgence in popularity in green burials are for some reasons, with the main benefits being-:
The simplicity in the burial
The simplicity of eco-friendly burial is one of the reasons why is liked by the majority. In most cases, it involves wrapping the body in an unadorned coffin or a plain cloth, and this is most appealing to those who prefer simple, natural and unpretentious burial services.
It is low cost
With the harsh economic times, those who don’t want to bother their families with expensive burial expenses prefer the green burial route because of its friendly cost implications. Since there is no embalming, the use of concrete vaults or fancy caskets, the cost of a typical green burial is far much lower compared to the conventional burials. With it, families are guaranteed to save thousands of dollars and the entire cost may be reduced further should they decide to use their coffin or shroud.
Helps in conserving natural resources
A typical cemetery in the United States uses over 30 million board feet of hardwood and around 90,000 tons of steel and additional 1.6million tons of reinforced concrete to conduct the conventional burials. With a green burial, however, all these may not be necessary, leading to the conservation of natural resources.
Helps in eliminating hazardous chemicals from the ground and the environment
For the majority, forgoing the embalming process is the greatest attraction in green burials. This is because the embalming fluids are full of hazardous chemicals which will ultimately find their way into the soil and the environment. Again, the chemicals in the embalming fluids are harmful to the respiratory system, and some are known to be carcinogenic. With over 5 million gallons of embalming oils disposed of annually in the United States, funeral home workers and the environment are always exposed to a myriad of risks. With a green burial, all these exposures to risks can be avoided since no embalming is needed for an eco-friendly burial, and if it is there, no toxic and hazardous chemicals will be used.
Preserves the natural areas
If you love nature and you fancy the idea of eternal rest in a peaceful natural forest, then you have every reason to consider green burials. This is another major reason given by people who decide to go for this type of burial. With it, the burial sites will restore or preserve natural landscape with wild trees, flowers and shrubs. It will forever remain the abode of wild animals, flowers, and insects and never worry about the disturbances brought about by the modern cemeteries.
Funeral Arrangements for Green Burial
Most people prefer to make prior arrangements for their funerals before their demise so that when that moment finally arrives, their families will not have to contend with rigorous preparations and mourn at the same time. By knowing what kind of funeral or memorial service you want, ideas can be easily calculated, such as choosing the type of funeral you want, comparing a funeral home, choosing a funeral director, and so on. Whether you decide to pay for all your funeral expenses in advance or you are interested only in making arrangements without committing any payments upfront, there are certain essential decisions you need to consider.
Some of them include the followings:
Burial or cremation
One of the decisions you will face in your plan is whether you intend to be buried or cremated. If you prefer to be buried, then you will have to decide if you want to be buried using the conventional method or if you want a green burial. This decision will have a huge impact on every other decision you make with regards to the rest of the arrangement.
With regards to the service, you should have a clear picture of how you intend the burial service to be like. For instance, where would you like the service to be held at (could be at a church or the burial place), and would you like your body to be present at the service and if so, would you like the casket to remain open or closed during the ceremony.
Some of the questions to help you reach a decision here include-:
- Do you wish to be buried in the ground in a cemetery and if so, do you have the location of the cemetery in mind?
- Would your burial place to be in another location and if so, do you have the location in mind?
- Will you be in a mausoleum, columbarium or crypt?
- If you intend to be cremated, how do you want your ashes to be treated? Do you need your family to keep them or do you want them scattered at any specific location?
The products for the burial
Once you have determined the type of burial you need, it is also prudent to think about the specific types of products you wish to be used during the burial. This is where you will make a decision on-:
The type of casket to use
If planning on getting cremated, the type of urn to use
If a conventional burial, the style of the headstone as well as what you need to be written on it
The last thing you desire when you finally go to meet your creator is to leave your family with a huge financial burden for your funeral expenses, and this is why you should also think about how to go about financing your burial. Once you know the kind of burial you need, it becomes possible to come up with a cost estimation to help you decide on how to get the funds. You have the option of paying all the funeral costs upfront, or you can work out a payment plan with your preferred funeral home. What you shouldn’t do, however, is to ignore the finances and hope that your family members will grant you the sendoff of your dreams without the necessary funds. Whichever option you go for, it should fit within the confines of affordable burial and cremation.
Discussing With Your Family
The other vital aspect of making your funeral arrangements is having a discussion with your family members regarding the same. They will be the worst affected by your demise, and it is only fair that you bring them on board with your plans. When they know in advance what your desires for a memorial service or burial service are, it will be easy for them to work with the funeral home and ensure you get exactly what you had wanted.
Having such a conversation will be very difficult, and you should have in mind that not every family member will agree with your plans. For instance, you may desire for a green burial or cremation, but some may object to it. What you need to do in such a case is to make them understand the reasons for your choices, but also you should not disregard their concerns. The ultimate thing is to have everyone on the same page with your plans and, sometimes, you may have to cede some grounds just to ensure you accommodate the views of your loved ones in your burial arrangements.
Finding Natural Burial Homes and Cemeteries
Natural burial cemeteries are defined by their will to adhere to green standards which include-:
- Environmentally friendly storage and preservation of the body
- Absence of embalming using toxic, formaldehyde embalming solutions
- Use of burial containers made from plant-based or biodegradable materials
For a funeral home to be considered as “green,” therefore, they must avail environmentally friendly options to the clients. However, it still is possible to hold a green burial service with a funeral home that does not advertise itself to be offering green burial services, but they make such options available to the consumers.
About the Green Burial Council
This is an independent nonprofit organization which aims at supporting and encouraging eco-friendly burial practices in the funeral industry. It has set the required standards for the industry in the United States, and it is one of the best places to consider when you are in need of green burial services or if you are making your funeral arrangements and you have decided to go for natural burial cemeteries.
In the United States, the Green Burial Council maintains a list of “Approved Funeral Providers” from which you can select a provider based on your state or closer to your state.
How to choose a natural cemetery
The process of choosing a natural or green cemetery should not be a difficult one if you know what you want and have made all the necessary preparations. When it comes to making your final choice on the cemetery, you should be informed that there are two major options you will be confronted. You will have either an entire cemetery dedicated to green burial or you may have the conventional cemeteries with a section dedicated to natural burial. The choice of either will be based on your specific desires.
If you are a pure naturalist, you may have to choose the former because the latter will always have the potential to require more space for traditional burials, which may eventually invade the specialized sections and thus disrupt their hopes of being rested in a natural Cemetery.
Most of the natural cemeteries you will come across will not have any cremated remains or burial vaults. A majority of them will be located in expansive tracts of land, often within the boundaries of critical habitat areas, natural parks and reserves or forever wild conservation areas.
The graves in such a burial place are marked by native plant or a natural rock; then the exact location recorded using a GPS. In this manner, the grave will blend in beautifully with nature and may soon never be recognized, if not for the coordinates recorded by the GPS. This is unlike in conventional burials where graves are marked with headstones that remain visible for many years to come.
It is also a common practice by most of the green cemeteries to forbid or regulate memorial decorations such as flowers, flags, wreaths and personal plantings in a bid to preserve the pristine natural landscapes and to protect flora and fauna in the present in such places. Be sure to ask about any special restrictions before you purchase a plot in the cemetery.
What to do if there is no green burial place around
There are instances when you may be unable to find a green burial place near you. In such a case, there are some options at your disposal. The first one is to search for cemeteries in the nearby states or localities. This implies that your body will have to be transported to another state or locality for the burial. Be sure to check for restrictions or potential legal barriers you may encounter in such a case when you are making your funeral arrangements.
If there is no green burial place near you, but you don’t want to be buried away from your state or locality, you can still practice green burial by omitting the use of embalming with toxic and hazardous solutions and by using a biodegradable casket or shroud. If the cemetery permits, you can also do away with the vault or use a concrete box with an open bottom as an alternative. You may also consider using a vault with an open bottom or using a vault without cover to make it easy for the body to return to earth.
If the above options don’t give you an accurate representation of a green burial and you have a rural property, then you may have to consider a home burial. Most states in America allow for burial on private properties, but since each municipal have their zoning regulations, be sure to find out the requirements as well as any permits needed for such a burial.
Do not forget that unless you designate a portion of the property as a family graveyard, your property may be auctioned for other reasons. Hence, your remains may be disturbed, or your loved ones may not be able to pay visits to your burial site.