Originally Published By Provenzano Lanza Funeral Home Blog
A small trend that is steadily growing and increasing in popularity across North America is the idea of a green burial. While the numbers are not yet overwhelming, currently about 90 cemeteries across the United States are either completely green cemeteries or hybrids where traditional burials also take place. Slowly but surely, more and more funeral homes are beginning to offer green burial services as public opinion is becoming more open to the idea.
With global warming becoming a more prevalent issue every year, it is expected that this trend will continue to grow as people continue to try and become as environmentally friendly as possible to counteract these environmental changes. There are also many businesses in the death care industry that are beginning to offer innovative services to help this effort grow. One of the most fascinating we’ve found is a project called Capsula Mundi which places a person’s remains within a biodegradable egg shaped capsule. A tree sapling is attached to the top and as the remains decompose, the nutrients released are used to help the tree grow. Rather than have a cemetery filled with tombstones, this project proposes a way to turn cemeteries into forests.
As we’ve looked into it more, the thought of a green burial has become quite intriguing to us so today we’ve compiled a helpful guide for you to better understand green burials and learn how to plan one.
What Is a Green Burial?
According to the Green Burial Council or GBC (non-profit organization operating in the United States, Canada, and Australia), a green burial is a full body internment in the ground that does not inhibit decomposition. Essentially, the deceased is buried in the ground in either a wooden coffin made of pine or it is wrapped in a decomposable shroud.
The GBC also sets specific instructions that many green cemeteries follow to ensure that the process is as environmentally friendly as possible. These guidelines include:
Graves must be hand dug.
The soil that is removed during the dig must be used to fill in the grave.
No vault or cement grave liners may be used.
Only biodegradable material is allowed to be buried with the body.
The grave is refilled by hand, leaving a mound to let settle naturally over time.
Benefits of A Green Burial
There are many benefits that come from having a green burial. The primary and most important reason is that there is a minimal environmental impact as a result. According to Mary Woodsen, a research director for the GBC, “It is estimated that more than 60,000 tons of steel and 4.8 million gallons of embalming fluid are used for traditional burials each year. That is enough steel to build 8 Eiffel Towers and fill 8 Olympic swimming pools.”
Green burials also offer financial benefits as well. Because there is no need to pay for embalming, a casket or a burial vault, the cost of the service is much less than a traditional burial. A recent article published by the National Funeral Directors Association has reported that the average cost of a traditional funeral is $7,181. While a green burial is still not as cheap as a cremation service, the overall cost still falls far below the cost of a traditional funeral.
There is also the potential for a green burial to carry community benefits. Eventually, most traditional burial sites will become full and leave the land unusable for anything else. A green cemetery is much different and is often indistinguishable from a normal field or wooded area. This presents the opportunity for the cemetery to be transformed into a conservation area, park or community garden.
Green Burial Planning Checklist
It is important to remember that the primary goal of a green burial is to leave no environmental impact. When you are planning the service, you should try to make every effort to include this goal within any other events like if you plan to hold a memorial or celebration afterward.
The following are the recommended steps to follow when planning a green burial.
1.) Contact a funeral home that offers green burials
2.) Meet with the funeral director who will be serving your family.
3.) Contact the cemetery where the green burial will be taking place.
4.) Schedule a time for the funeral service.
5.) Invite guests to the service.
6.) Decide upon music, readings, and who will speak during the service.
7.) Make arrangements for a memorial or reception following the service