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How to Arrange a Green Burial

Doing right by the environment doesn’t stop when you die. A traditional burial has a significant environmental impact that can be lessened by choosing a green burial. Green burials are environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional burials and cremation, and they are becoming increasingly popular as people become more aware of the environmental impact of their actions.

What is a green burial?

A green burial (also known as an eco burial) is an eco-friendly alternative to a traditional funeral. It is a way of returning our bodies back to the earth in a natural and sustainable way. Green burials are intended to have as minimal impact on the environment as possible and to bury a body in a way that considers natural resources. This can mean a few things, including:

  • Using recycled or sustainable materials for the coffin or shroud
  • Avoiding the use of chemicals, like embalming fluids
  • Not using a vault or liner
  • Having a gravesite that will naturally decompose over time
  • Using biodegradable grave markers or natural grave markers

Green burials use alternatives to embalming fluids (or may not use them at all) and avoid using anything that isn't biodegradable or is harmful to the environment.

Why choose a green burial?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to have a green burial. Green burials are a more sustainable option than traditional funerals. Additionally, some families and individuals feel that having a green burial is a spiritual option for those who want to return their bodies to the earth.

What are the benefits of a green burial?

There are many benefits to having a green burial, including:

  • They are more eco-friendly than traditional funerals
  • They can be less expensive than traditional funerals
  • They often have a smaller environmental footprint
  • They are a more natural and sustainable way to bury your loved ones

Green burials are a great option for those who want to reduce their impact on the environment.

Green funeral costs

One of the benefits of having a green burial is that they can be less expensive than traditional funerals. The cost of a green burial will depend on many factors, including:

  • Whether you are using a funeral home or not
  • The type of coffin or shroud you choose
  • Whether you are having a graveside service
  • The location of the green burial site

While green burials can cost less than traditional funerals, it is important to remember that they are still a significant expense. It is important to plan ahead and budget for a green burial just as you would for any other funeral. Planning ahead for a green funeral is even more important due to the restrictions that are often placed on green burial sites. For example, only certain cemeteries are considered eco-burial sites. This means that you may have to travel farther to get to the green burial site, which can add to the cost.

If you're still thinking, "How much does it cost for a green burial?", expect to spend around $1,000 - $2,000 for a natural burial. Traditional burials cost around $7,000 to $11,000 for comparison.

Green burial alternatives

If you're looking for alternatives to green burials, there are a few methods of disposition that are more eco-friendly than traditional burials, including:

  • Alkaline hydrolysis - Alkaline hydrolysis, also known as aquamation, is a process that uses water and chemicals to reduce a body to its basic elements. This method is seen as more eco-friendly than traditional burials because it doesn't use formaldehyde, which is a harmful chemical.
  • Natural organic reduction - Natural organic reduction, also known as human composting, is a process that uses heat and organic materials to reduce a body to soil. The soil is then returned to the family at the end of the process.
  • Donate the body to science - Donating your body to science is a way to have your body used for research or medical training. This option is often seen as more eco-friendly than traditional burials because it doesn't require a casket or burial plot as the body is first used for other purposes and then is typically cremated at the end of the process.
  • Cremation - Cremation is the process of reducing a body to ash using a high-heat cremation chamber.

Each of these methods has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to do your research to see which one is right for you.

How to arrange a green burial

Arranging a green burial involves choosing a green cemetery from the available natural burial cemeteries, selecting an option from available green caskets and biodegradable burial shrouds, finding a funeral home that will help you with your requests, and if planning for yourself, letting your family and appropriate individuals (lawyer, executor, etc.) know about your request for a natural burial.

Step 1: Locate a green burial provider

Browse Ever Loved's directory of the top 250+ green burial and funeral homes and cemeteries to help you locate a green burial provider near you. If you prefer to search visually, you can use Green Burial Council's interactive map. While these lists do have a lot of green burial service providers, they aren't entirely complete and comprehensive. You may be able to work with a local funeral home to facilitate a green burial, but it depends on the funeral home and their practices.

Step 2: Identify what services you'd like to purchase

After you find a green funeral home to work with, you should choose which services you'd like to purchase. Keep in mind that no matter what funeral home you're working with, you have the right to only purchase services you are interested in. (For a refresher, be sure to check out your rights under The Funeral Rule.)

If you've decided to work with a funeral home that's not a certified green funeral home, you should double check that only eco-friendly chemicals will be used and all services you're purchasing are eco-friendly and natural.

Step 3: Choose a casket or burial shroud

One of the bigger purchases you'll need to make is a green casket or biodegradable burial shroud. You should make sure the casket or shroud is made of eco-friendly and sustainable materials like bamboo, wool, cotton, or unfinished wood. You should also make sure that the casket or shroud hasn't been treated with any chemicals or finishes.

If you're working with a certified green funeral home, they may have a selection of eco-friendly caskets and shrouds for you to choose from. If you're working with a traditional funeral home, they may not have any eco-friendly options, in which case you should purchase one from an outside source. Keep in mind that in most cases, purchasing funeral products online will save you money.

Step 4: Get your wishes in writing

If you’re planning for yourself, it's important to get your wishes in writing. This will ensure that everything is carried out according to your wishes and will help avoid any confusion or disagreements down the road.

This is also incredibly important if your family isn't aware of your desire for a green burial. Be sure to specify that you are interested in a green, natural, or eco-friendly burial. It also may be important to specify why you are interested in a green burial as this can ensure your family understands your reasoning and tries their best to honor it in all respects.

Once you have everything down in writing, be sure to give copies to your family, your lawyer, and/or your executor. You may also want to keep a copy for yourself. If you want a place to keep all your final wishes organized, you can use Ever Loved's key information worksheet.

Record key information

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Last updated August 18, 2022
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