Many of us would love a green burial. The notion of simplicity and returning to nature resonates with many of us. The problem is that many of us might not live near a certified green burial cemetery. One day, that might not be the case. As it stands right now, I for example would either have to go out of state for a certified green burial or travel 225 miles to a hybrid cemetery. Because many of us face this situation, we need to know what questions to ask any cemetery that advertises green burials, but is not certified. Knowing how green is green benefits a family facing such a dilemma.
First, when dealing with an uncertified cemetery, always ask why they are not certified. This will tell you a great deal. If they say it is because they do not want an entity telling them how to run their own business (which really means they don’t want to follow the rules), then you can figure that the cemetery might not be as green as you might like. If the reason for non-certification is that the process is long and expensive, but they would like to be certified, then these people just might have stronger green burial ideals.
Second, ask about their burial policies in their “green” section. A green cemetery ought to be a section that is totally devoted to green burials. This means that a green section ought not have embalmed bodies or vaults of any kind. I know of a cemetery whose “green” section uses fiberglass vaults for those people who want vaults. The cemetery might also have embalmed bodies in this section for one reason or another. This is not green. Some cemeteries might have a “greenish” section such as this, and they might be your best hope for a green burial in your area, but it is always best to know who you are dealing with and what kind of cemetery you are purchasing the right to be buried in.
Third, inquire about their memorialization or grave marking policies. Certified Green Burial stones must be of native rock and their placement must not impede the veiwshed. This means that stone markers are permitted, but they have to be laid in such a way that they do not detract from the overall vision of the land. Green burial stones are very often flush to the ground for this reason. Ask where the stones are quarried. One somewhat greenish cemetery I am aware of used stone from India and China when landscaping their green burial section. I love the look of black stone, but I know where it comes from. Keep in mind the amount of energy used to bring this lovely stone to the cemetery. Some cemeteries require bronze in their memorialization. This is a costly and uses a lot of energy to produce. Yes, it lasts a long time and is beautiful. The question of green burial is how green is green and when you are required to use a substance that is not very green, then the cemetery is not very green either.
Fifth, ask about their policies surrounding memorial plantings. Do they require native plants or can you use any plant you get from the local nursery? Again, green burial is about preserving, reclaiming and restoring land. A green cemetery would know what kinds of plants are native to the area and will require those kinds of plants only on the grave.
Simplicity can be very difficult to accomplish. Keep in mind what it is you want for your final statement on earth. You should be able to have what you want, but you must do the footwork to find which place is the best place for your final resting place. Contact Midwest Green Burial Society, or the Green Burial Council’s and National Home Funeral Alliance’s data bases for providers. If you cannot find the greenest of green or your shade of green you want, find the best place and keep your options open. Once you purchase the rights of burial, you can’t always get your money back. A certified green burial site might open up soon.