It seems so long ago that I started on my green burial journey. For me green burial is about a return to simplicity, a reinforcement of people’s rights in death and the preservation of land. When planning a green, and environmentally friendly burial a few things are needed to keep in mind.
1. Biodegradable Casket or Shroud: When deciding on a casket or a shroud, keep in mind the material used and how it is put together. All parts should be made of organic, sustainable material. Shrouds are a simpler product as it breaks down quicker. Because shrouds do not have as much negative space, the grave will settle less. As the material of the casket breaks down, so the grave begins to settle. With a shroud, there is no negative space because the body is wrapped.
Remember, according to federal law, you are always allowed to purchase your own casket or shroud and the funeral home must allow this. Keep in mind how far away the product is made and how much fuel and effort it will take to get to you. Check out local wood makers or seamstresses/tailors? Keep it local and support your own community.
2. No Vaults: That should be self-explanatory. Some cemeteries that have a green burial option will allow vaults in their “green section”. I do not mean to say that all uncertified cemeteries do this, but just be aware and ask questions. Keep in mind if you are nowhere near a cemetery that allows for burials without a vault, a greener option might be an inverted or bell vault that will allow the body to return to the earth naturally. While this is not ideal, we all do the best we can and this might be your only option.
3. No Embalming: This sounds simple. In States that demand its citizens to hire a funeral director (Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York) this might be more difficult than it should be. Simplicity has never been so complicated as having a traditional funeral in a state that holds our loved ones hostage to the funeral industry. If you shop around, you can find one that will allow you to remain in a natural state, cleaned and prepared traditionally. Check out the home funeral guide directory to find a guide in your area. They are better versed with how the system works in your area, and might already have established relationships with funeral directors so that you can have a simple funeral. The Green Burial Council does allow for green embalming, provided the council certified the fluids used. Any funeral director should be able to use these products, so if this is what you want, please ask.
4. Grave Markers: Grave markers should be made of native material and should not impede the viewshed. That means grave markers are permitted as long as they are made from native material and do not interfere with the natural look of the land. Upright, conventional markers are not permitted in certified burial grounds.
5. The Grave: Ideally the greenest burial takes place in a Green Burial Council certified cemetery. If your area does not have such a cemetery, check out cemeteries that allow for a green option and other cemeteries that have yet to be certified by the Green Burial Council. You have to ask about their standards when planning on a burial in these cemeteries. Whatever you choose, remember every green grave preserves the land, and is an act of love in preserving the earth.
Green Burial Council Standards