I Want a Green Burial. What Are My Options?

By: Kate Nypaver
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Green burials exist to reduce our carbon footprint even after death. Ultimately, the goal is to refrain from using materials that will not break down in the earth, and reduce the amount of energy and fuel used in burial and disposition. This method is gaining in popularity amongst younger generations, and serves as a great way to give back to the environment.  

The current worry surrounding traditional burials is that non-biodegradable materials are being placed into the ground, along with embalming chemicals that can seep into the soil. Many caskets are made of metal, which of course won’t break down. It’s sort of like burying a car.

But if you’re looking for a green alternative, a simple wooden casket without glue, metal, or varnish is a great option. Woven caskets can also be used in green burials, because they are made of wicker, bamboo, willow, or other materials that will break down. These beautiful caskets are a great option and can still be placed into a hearse and carried by pallbearers.

Shrouds are also a very natural and simple method for burial. Typically the shroud is made of linen or other biodegradable fabric, and can be decorated with flowers or other herbs. The body is wrapped in the shroud and placed directly into the grave of a cemetery that will allow this type of burial. With this method, the body is restored to the earth in a natural, modest way.

There are many green methods to utilize after cremation as well, such as biodegradable urns, which are known for their versatility and low impact on the environment. Before burying a biodegradable urn, however, check with your state’s laws regarding the burial of cremated remains outside of a cemetery, as well as the zoning laws encompassing the area you’re about to bury in.

As for a heartwarming goodbye on the water, there are other biodegradable “pillow” urns that are made to float and then disintegrate, which would give plenty of time for a lakeside or even boat-side service. Or, you can always spread the ashes straight into the water, so long as you’re following the law that you must be at least 3 nautical miles from the oceanic coast.

If you’re planning on utilizing a cemetery for burial and you’d like to be green about it, check with your local cemetery to see if it is considered a “hybrid burial ground”, which means it allows any form of burial with any type of container. Another option is to select a “natural burial ground” which allows for green burials and uses only natural and organic pesticides to preserve the simplicity of the land. Some of these burial grounds are considered conservations, so obstructive headstones and plastic fixtures are not permitted.

There are many green burial options to choose from, and many websites that discuss the positivity surrounding green methods of disposition. Many people feel that we have a duty to preserve the earth, while others simply prefer the organic nature of these burials. If you’re interested in an option like this, be sure to tell your funeral director up front! Your wants and needs are important, especially for something as final as a burial.    

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