So why is it hard to have a green burial? Status Quo is a huge reason that having a green or natural burial is so difficult. To be honest, at the time of a loved one’s death, many of us find it so hard to get through with all the details that must be taken care of. Sometimes it is just easier to do what has been done in the past than to make a change. Even though natural or green burial is traditional and has been for generations until the middle of the twentieth century, we now face now the social convention of embalming or now even more conventional, cremation. It may not matter that what you really want is traditional; it might be very hard to get because most people are not getting a green burial these days. Things are changing, but maybe not fast enough for you or me.
The scarcity of these services contributes to how difficult it is for the average person to obtain a green burial. Many people do not have a green certified cemetery or burial ground within driving distance. Many do not have a cemetery, which even allows for the option of having a somewhat green burial. Many of those uncertified cemeteries do not have standards for their “green: burial. On the other hand, some uncertified green cemeteries do adhere to the standards put forth from the Green Burial Council, but are not certified yet. These are those that have found the process to be very difficult to document or too expensive for the cemetery to do. This is why you must always ask the questions for the service providers you wish to engage.
Even if you have a certified green cemetery in you area that does not mean you will like how they have interpreted these standards. For example, the standards for memorialization for a green burial states that stones must be locally sourced, and they should not impeded the viewscape. That just means the stones should not stand up or look out of place on the land. Some certified cemeteries and burial grounds use GPS coordinates or have a central memorial stone on which they will place the names and maybe the dates of those who are buried. You might want a local stone on your grave, but this particular cemetery will not allow that. Interpretation of standards goes to other service providers as well. I have called and spoken with each green certified funeral director in my area, and I found only one to my liking. He was open, honest about the process, and was genuinely interested in doing what the family wanted, and not just following convention. Always, always ask your questions and figure out what will best work for you and your family.
What are the solutions? First, we need not be afraid to talk openly about death. Death is not a dirty word. We need to stop closeting death. We need to market green burial better. When explained, many people become interested in natural burial. It is simple and should not cost as much as a conventional embalmed, casketed and vaulted burial. People are genuinely open to the concept of natural burial, but they just do not have easy access to it. The alternative death care industry has made it easier for people to discuss options and this will create a new marketplace. What do we do now until the change comes? Well, we do our best to help the change. In the first place the availability of land for this purpose causes many people to turn to a conventional cemetery. If the place where they will bury their loved does not even have a green option, then the cycle of conventional burial continues. Perhaps spiritual communities can set aside land for this purpose within their own communities. Some suggest people create cooperative cemeteries for natural burial. I like these ideas, but running a burial ground can be difficult. Municipalities, who have already set aside land for burial, could set aside some of that land for green burials. Some of our poorest citizens use these plots and I see no reason to add to their financial strain, and then many of us could have easier access to a green burial. Change will come. Change has already begun. In asking questions of death care providers we can help reshape the market place. In doing so, maybe we can make our last act on this planet one helps the earth and those who come after us.