What Is a Green Burial?


Interest in green burials and other alternative funerals has grown substantially in recent years. More and more, people are taking the environment into consideration when making their funeral arrangements.

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

The reasons for wanting a green burial – or natural burial – vary from person to person. The major motivations for this type of service are:

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

If green burials appeal to you, you may need to search for mortuaries and cemeteries that are certified to prepare a body for a green burial. You also may need special permission from your state or county to be buried naturally.

The following questions can help you determine if a green burial is right for you.


How does a green burial minimize environmental impact?

Green burials are designed to have minimal environmental impact and conserve natural resources. In most cases, natural 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


Does traditional embalming damage the environment?

Embalming fluid contains chemicals like formaldehyde that may damage the ground. Green burials reject the use of traditional embalming fluid because they can pollute the soil as the body degrades. Fortunately, there are some embalming fluids that are chemical-free.

Some natural 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 a green burial?  

There are many new products that cater to natural burials, including biodegradable coffins that are made from paper, cardboard, willow, seagrass 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 a green 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 cemeteries that allow natural burials.


How do I plan a green burial?

When planning 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 green burial-certified.

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.

Need Help With Funeral Costs? Knowing Your Rights Can Save You Money


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