What is a Green Burial?
Also known as natural burial, a green burial ensures the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects. According to the Green Burial Council, there are three main characteristics to this practice: a non-toxic preparation of the body, the absence of a vault, and the use of containers made of organic material.
In other words, there is no embalming and the use of biodegradable containers, such as caskets, shrouds, or nothing. These significant differences make green burial a good alternative for families concerned about reducing carbon emissions, workers’ health, and preserving the environment.
Embalming is the preservation of the human body using chemicals. It delays decomposition, and it is used for cosmetic purposes to keep the body looking “natural” during the viewing. The use of chemicals has serious consequences for the environment, as they are released on the soil and waters after the burial. Overall, embalming is not necessary for end-of-life ceremonies and can be substituted for more natural methods.
Green burial excludes the embalming process, and it doesn’t inhibit decomposition, allowing the body to nourish the soil after it’s buried. That doesn’t mean the body can’t be prepared for burial and public display. There are several techniques, such as refrigeration, and the use of topical nontoxic lotions and oils, to keep the body preserved during the ceremonies.
Why Have a Green Burial?
Although a little different from traditional practices, green burials still provide families a meaningful way of honoring their loved ones and allow people to start their healing journey all the same. There are some main reasons a family might choose to have a green burial for their loved one, amongst them:
- Natural Return to the Earth: for many people, a green burial is a way to close the life cycle, to reunite a body with the earth. All organisms that have lived, have died and returned to the soil, only to be recycled into new life. Nature creates no waste, everything is recycled and utilized to continue creating life on Earth. In keeping with your personal values, a natural burial site for you, your family, and even pets, promotes the growth of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, in turn bringing birds and other wildlife to the area.
- Environmentally friendly: Without the use of heavy chemicals and other materials that remain in the soil for centuries, Green Burial is the most environmentally conscious practice. The natural decomposition of the body nourishes the soil, while the biodegradable materials used in the burial will blend into the Earth in a few years, causing no harm to the fauna and flora.
How to Hold a Green Burial?
If you – as a family – decide that green burial is the best way to honor your loved one, how do you arrange one? You first need to choose a certified funeral service provider to help you arrange the natural burial from the beginning to the end.
After this, decide how you’d like to care for and handle the body. The person/professional who does this will use ice packs, dry ice, or refrigeration.
The next step is to select your preferred burial ground. It can be the deceased’s land, a hybrid, or a green cemetery. Due to the demand for green burials nowadays, conventional cemeteries offer natural burial services and grounds. So, you can check with local cemeteries to find out if they provide these services and the cost of burying your loved one there.
Once you secure a plot, select your preferred burial container. It should be renewable, recycled, or non-exotic. Families usually choose a shroud, quilt, or blanket to cover the body, cardboard, an untreated pine box, or a casket made using biodegradable materials such as grasses or flowers.
Decide how you’d like to conduct the burial ceremony, depending on your family’s needs. You can discuss this with the funeral home to identify options you can adopt. Finally, choose your preferred grave marker. You can include native plants, a tree, or a small engraved stone.
Benefits of a Natural Burial: Costs and Simplicity
Because green burial excludes several elements of a traditional burial, it tends to be a cheaper option. Embalming, vaults, and coffins are expensive, increasing the final prices of a burial service. Alongside that, the process of choosing all these items is time-consuming. The simplicity of the Green Burial not only relieves the family from financial burden but also saves time and worries.
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