What is Green Burial? Green burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat.
Why replace conventional burial practices? The standard conventional funeral, complete with embalming and burial in a lawn cemetery, is fraught with health hazards, and requires the permanent installation of non-biodegradable vaults around non-biodegradable caskets. Embalmers have an 8 times higher risk of contracting blood diseases such as leukemia, and 3 times higher risk of ALS, while groundskeepers are more than twice as likely to develop COPD; both are exposed routinely to chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological diseases. And each year, the US buries over 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete – roughly 1-2 tons per vault, plus imported steel from China and exotic woods from rainforests in South America, creating a significant total of carbon emissions.
How is green burial really different? The difference is in the non-invasive, eco-friendly methods used to care for the body prior to and during burial, not in the ways we honor our dead. In fact, rituals are on the rise as families find the natural setting of green burials conducive to both traditional and spontaneous celebrations of life and acknowledgment of their loss.
Green burial cemeteries:
reduce carbon footprint and contribute to the natural eco-cycle
occupy lands with intrinsic ecological quality and meaningful social value
are managed as municipal cemeteries, land trusts, conservation lands, and recreational preserves in perpetuity
allow biodegradable caskets, shrouds, urns, often made with local resources by local craftspeople
do not allow embalming fluids, vaults, herbicides or pesticides
mark locations by GPS, native memorials such as fieldstone
provide teaching and research opportunities
create recreational, cultural and spiritual opportunities, building community
protect and restore wildlife habitat
integrate sustainable native plant communities
Who is the Green Burial Council? The Green Burial Council (GBC) is an independent certification and educational nonprofit organization offering environmental certificates for funeral homes, cemeteries, and product manufacturers. Advocacy and educational efforts help funeral providers, individuals, and organizations better understand the environmental, cultural and economic benefits of green funeral practices.
What is Home Funeral? Home funerals occur when a loved one is cared for at home after death, giving family time to gather and participate in:
planning and carrying out after-death rituals or ceremonies
preparing the body for burial or cremation by bathing, dressing and laying out for visitation
keeping the body cool with noninvasive cooling techniques, such as dry ice or Techni-ice
filing the death certificate and obtaining transport and burial permits
transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation
facilitating the final disposition, such as digging the grave in natural burial
hiring professionals for specific services
The Value of Home Funerals Home funerals invite family, friends, and community into an authentic and healing after-death care experience in a safe and familiar place, with care performed by loving hands. In terms of cost, a family willing to care for their own will spend a fraction of the cost of a conventional funeral. Old-fashioned virtues of frugality, simplicity, self-reliance, and care for the earth guide us in creating authentic funeral rituals and celebrations of life.
The Myth of Health Risks One of the top concerns families have are about health issues. Here is what a leading authority, Dr. Michael Osterholm, from the Center for Infectious Disease Policy and Research says, “…the mere presence of a dead body … does not pose any increased risk of infectious disease transmission for the person who might handle that body or review it in a private setting…There simply is no measurable risk of that body transmitting an infectious disease agent. . .” The World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control concur.
How Can I Learn More About Home Funerals? The National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA) is a nonprofit membership organization committed to reconnecting to our heritage, educating individuals, families and communities, empowering families, and encouraging those who further the practice of home funerals.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) is a national nonprofit that works through its state affiliates to ensure consumer protections for individuals and families seeking funeral pricing and information.
New Hampshire Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy (NHFREA) is a NH-based nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about home funerals and green and home burials. Both provide easy to access information to assist you in learning how to prepare for an eco-friendly, affordable exit.