Many people love their home so much that they choose to stay in that one place until death – or even after. The idea of a backyard burial is both old and new and can provide a cost saving alternative to a standard burial. It’s also typically more eco-friendly than getting buried in a traditional cemetery.
However, being buried in your backyard or somewhere nearby isn’t always as easy as one may think. Even though it’s your property, some states and communities have laws in place that may prevent a backyard burial.
If you’re interested in a backyard burial, here are the basics of a backyard burial that you should know.
Is It Legal?
Home burials are technically legal in every state except:
In California, someone can be fined up to $10,000 for a home burial and end up getting charged with a misdemeanor.
However, even if your state isn’t on that list, there might be other regulations in place that make it tricky to go through with a backyard burial. From a localized standpoint, your community might have zoning rules in place when it comes to where individuals can be buried. For example, some states require burial plots to be a certain distance from bodies of water or other buildings and roads. As a result, if you live in a tight neighborhood, it’s almost impossible to legally do a backyard burial.
The easiest way to determine if going through with a backyard burial at your home is legal is to contact your local city commissioner and look at zoning laws. If you truly want to get buried in your backyard, knowing different state and local laws might impact where you choose to live.
Making that decision now will make it easier to age in place later, so you can comfortably stay in your home and develop a care plan rather than getting older in a nursing home or other facility.
An Eco-Friendly Burial Option
While going through with a “green” burial probably isn’t the first reason you want to be buried in your backyard, it should be taken into consideration. Many people are choosing to forego the traditional coffin and burial methods to give something back to the planet after they die. So much so, that 70% of cemeteries across the country have seen an increase in demand for “green funerals.”
What does that look like? How can being buried in your backyard be a more eco-friendly option?
If you’re willing to give up the idea of being buried in a heavy coffin and the use of preservation chemicals, there are plenty of green options that can help your body give back to the planet. Some of the most common include
It can take some time to plan for a green burial, so it’s important to make sure your loved ones are on the same page. Talk to the people closest to you about the environmental benefits that are important to you and consider options that will help you cut back on your carbon footprint that others can put into action. Researching and hiring a green funeral director in your area can make it easier to ensure your family follows through with your wishes, even in a time of grief.
Maybe you don’t necessarily want to get buried in your backyard but a familiar spot nearby. It’s not uncommon for people to fall in love with locations. If there’s a tranquil wooded area near your home or a stream you like to walk to every day, it’s normal to want to get buried there and feel a sense of peace.
However, that requires even more legalities to deal with and paperwork to fill out. Most states aren’t going to let you dig up land that isn’t yours – even if it’s public property. However, because green and personalized burials are becoming more common, there are more natural burial sites throughout the U.S. than you might realize.
For example, there are currently ten Green Burial Council-certified conservation burial grounds as well as 278 hybrid cemeteries, 60 natural cemeteries, and 20 conservation burial sites in the U.S. and Canada. They forbid the use of heavy machinery and native plants and may use native plants and trees are used as memorials. There are many more memorial forests, which allow you to be buried among the trees in certain designated locations.
Most cemetery laws are outdated, as major regulations started in the 1800s. Now that people are shifting behaviors and changing the way they want to be buried, it’s time to look at those laws for the sake of each individual’s wishes, and the environment. In the meantime, if you truly want to get buried in your backyard, make sure you live in a state and community that allows it, and use these tips to make planning and preparing easier on yourself and your loved ones.
About the Author
Sam Bowman is freelance writer and environmental advocate who enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.
Call for Entries
We welcome original content with unique perspectives for the GBC Blog, preferably not previously published. The views and opinions expressed on the GBC Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the GBC. Submit entries by email