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Green Burial – A Natural Approach to Funerals

More and more, people are interested in having a green burial because they want to protect the environment when they pass away. This natural approach to funerals has led to an increase in green burial cemeteries, green burial caskets, and even green funeral ceremonies like a tree burial.

In 2010, the Funeral and Memorialization Information Council (FAMIC) estimated that 43 percent of adults over the age of 40 were interested in these types of burials. Five years later, that percentage climbed to 64 percent.

The reasons for wanting this type of burial vary from person to person. The major motivations for this type of service are:

  • Cost-savings. These burials are typically cheaper than traditional burials because you don’t need to purchase a traditional casket.
  • Environmentally friendly. They have less of an impact on the environment because of the materials used.
  • Spiritual significance. Many people feel a special connection with nature. This approach allows the deceased to return to the earth in a natural way.

If this approach appeals to you, you may need to search for specific green funeral homes or natural cemeteries that are certified to perform burials this way. You also may need special permission from your state or county to be buried naturally.

The following questions can help you determine if this natural approach to funerals is right for you.


How does a green burial minimize environmental impact?

They are designed to have minimal environmental impact and conserve natural resources. In most cases, these burials use materials and storage containers that are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Among the materials not used include:

  • Embalming fluids (certain oils may be used instead)
  • Cement or metal coffin vaults
  • Clothing made from certain materials

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Does traditional embalming damage the environment?

Embalming fluid contains chemicals like formaldehyde that may damage the ground. Natural burials don’t use traditional embalming fluid because it can pollute the soil as the body degrades. Fortunately, there are some embalming fluids that are chemical-free.

Some eco-friendly burials preserve the body using essential oils. These oils are environmentally-friendly and degrade without leaving trace chemicals in the soil.


What items do I need to have?  

There are many new products that cater to these types of burials, including biodegradable coffins that are made from paper, cardboard, willow, sea-grass, or bamboo that can break down with little environmental impact.

The Green Burial Council offers a list of vendors who have green burial-certified products that can be used for your final arrangements.


Where can I have an eco-friendly burial?

Some states allow you to conduct a private burial on private land, but this differs from state to state. If this appeals to you, be sure to check your state laws. You can also review the state’s funeral planning guides from U.S. Funerals.com to see if you can conduct a home burial and have a cemetery on your private land. The site also lists green cemeteries that can perform green services.


How do I plan a green burial?

It’s important to make sure your final wishes are noted and that your preferences are clearly listed. Include on the list where you’d like the burial to take place, such as a mortuary that is certified to perform green services.

Among the things you should specify:

  • Ceremony preferences
  • Preferences for biodegradable coffins, organic or non-toxic embalming fluid, etc.
  • Whether or not to have a viewing beforehand


Next steps

Whether you are looking to have a natural burial or a more traditional ceremony, it’s important to understand the costs associated with each service.

If you’re concerned about the high cost of funerals, you’re not alone. To help you understand these costs and the rights you have when working with funeral homes, we’ve put together the following article.

Learn Your Funeral Rights Here