Natural Burials and Green Burials

"Going green" has become common terminology in many industries. Within the deathcare industry, "green" refers to more natural ways to decrease a body’s carbon footprint on the earth. Today, choices can be made at each step of the deathcare process to limit waste, reduce the carbon footprint and help sustain local ecosystems.

Why Families Choose Natural Burials and Green Burials

A 2018 New York Times article noted that nearly 54 percent of Americans were considering a green burial, with 72 percent of cemeteries reporting increased demand for green burial options (National Funeral Directors Association). There are a variety of reasons people’s interest in green and natural burials is growing.

Some people seek more eco-friendly options to help preserve space on the planet while others are concerned about the environmental impact of materials used during the burial process. Others may see natural or green burials as an opportunity to “come full circle” and find peace in returning to earth close to how they arrived, in the most natural form.

To qualify as environmentally friendly, green and natural burials must include materials and storage containers that are biodegradable, so there is no use of embalming fluid, toxic chemicals, cement, or metal coffin vaults. Caskets can be made of plain wood, wicker, cardboard or other eco-friendly materials, such as willow or bamboo. These natural materials and qualifications help to preserve the environment.

The cost of natural burial plots range, often similar to those of traditional burial plots as many of the same services apply A funeral home can provide a family guidance on funeral service cost savings. The cost of funeral services may continue to range based on each family’s selections, however natural preparation of the body may provide some cost savings.

How Do Green Burials Differ From Natural Burials?

Green burials and natural burials are similar, however the processes are not interchangeable. While both seek to minimize environmental impact, the term “natural burial” is generally unregulated. Available natural burial options vary regionally and are influenced by culture, religion, tradition, landscape, topography and climate, as well as what a cemetery may permit.

Green burials are a specific type of natural burial, requiring cemeteries, funeral homes and vendors to follow guidelines,standards, and receive certification from the Green Burial Council.

Where Do Natural and Green Burials Occur?

As natural and green burials increase in popularity, there are several options families may select from. The most popular choices for natural and green burials are hybrid cemeteries, natural burial grounds, and conservation burial grounds.

A hybrid cemetery is a conventional cemetery that offers traditional burial as well as natural burial, either throughout the cemetery or in a designated section. Hybrid cemeteries can earn a certification that allows them to substitute biodegradable burial containers, such as shrouds or soft wood caskets for traditional vaults.

Natural burial grounds help restore or preserve landscapes populated by native vegetation and wildlife, supported by sustainable management through land conservation efforts. Conservation burial takes environmental stewardship even further by committing burial fees to pay for land acquisition, protection, restoration, and management.

It is recommended to consult with your cemetery as not every cemetery provides natural or green burial options.

Although the specific impact of natural and green burials can be challenging to measure, natural and green burials offer additional alternatives to families to find an option to best fit their needs.