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Green Funerals

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Thanks to the recurring global coverage of environmental issues such as pollution, deforestation, wildfires, global warming, and the adverse effects of climate change, more and more people in the UK and USA are becoming aware of the impact of day-to-day human activities on the environment and continuously making an effort to adopt eco-conscious habits.


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One particular topic that has come under scrutiny is the aspect of traditional cemetery burials. According to an article in the Berkeley Planning Journal, formaldehyde-based embalming fluids contribute to air and soil pollution, yet approximately 800,000 tons are buried in USA graveyards annually. This, coupled with the amount of wood, steel, and cement buried along with the body, significantly impacts the environment.


Therefore, to minimize the negative effects of traditional burials on the environment, scientists and environmentalists are now fronting green burials and other forms of natural burials as sustainable alternatives.


How to Have a Green Burial


A green burial or natural funeral is the interment of a deceased in a manner that allows the body to decompose and get recycled in nature completely. Green burial emphasizes simplicity and environmental sustainability; the deceased is neither cremated nor prepared with any chemicals whatsoever. Instead, the body is placed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud and buried at an approved green burial site.


Green burial products in the UK and USA include:

  • Biodegradable coffin

  • Biodegradable urn

  • Compostable Linen

  • Green burial wash – used in preparing the body without chemicals

  • Environmentally friendly shroud

  • Green headstone

  • Eco-friendly flowers



Although green burial is legal in the UK and USA, there are rules and regulations for dealing with human remains that must be followed. Some of these include;


The most important green burial law is that the containers used for interment (coffin or urn) must be biodegradable.


The body of the deceased can be prepared by a funeral director or anyone with a durable power of attorney for healthcare. However, not all states in the USA recognize the decisions of a designated agent, so it’s important to double-check with concerned authorities.


Green burials forego the process of embalming the deceased. Fortunately, embalming is not a legal requirement. However, the states of Alabama and Alaska in the USA require it when the body is transported across state lines. New Jersey, Minnesota, Idaho, Kansas, and California require embalming only when the body is being transported on a common carrier such as an airplane or train.


Most green burial cemeteries in the UK and USA also forbid or limit personal plantings and any memorial decorations on graves to preserve the natural landscape.


The rules and regulations for a green burial differ based on your location. Therefore, before you start planning, research all the green burial sites in your local area, and corresponding green burial laws, and compare the green burial costs so as to make an informed decision.


The Green Burial Council


The Green Burial Council is a nonprofit organization that encourages environmentally sustainable death care in North America. They aim to reduce toxins, waste, and carbon emissions associated with funerary products and services and utilize burial to acquire, restore, and steward natural areas.


The Green Burial Council has a strict certification criterion that awards cemeteries and funeral directors for their professionalism in upholding green burial laws and standards. The council currently recognizes roughly 72 cemeteries that conduct green burials across 40 states and five provinces in the USA.


The Green Burial Council is a great resource to boost your knowledge on green burials, certified green burial sites, the current green burial laws in North America, green burial costs, and general support when planning a green burial.



Three types of green burial sites comply with green burial laws in the UK and USA:


Hybrid Burial Grounds


A hybrid burial ground is a regular cemetery or graveyard that allows both traditional burials and green burials. These cemeteries don’t require embalming and have a provision for the deceased to be buried in any type of container, including those required by green burial laws, for example, a biodegradable coffin, an eco-urn, or a shroud.


Natural Burial Grounds


In contrast, a natural burial ground is a place that is already a part of nature, for example, wildflower meadows, woodlands, or even parks. According to the Green Burial Council, the cemetery has to be designed, operated, and maintained to produce a naturalistic appearance, based on the use of plants and materials native to the region, and patterns of landscape derived from and compatible with regional ecosystems. In addition, natural burial grounds must have a pesticide-free integrated pest management system.


This is a favorite for nature lovers as the green burial costs are cheaper, and the deceased transitions into a “greener” afterlife.


Conservation Burial Grounds


Natural Burial Grounds Are the Perfect Way to Return to Nature
Natural Burial Grounds Are the Perfect Way to Return to Nature

In addition to meeting all the requirements for both hybrid burial grounds and natural burial grounds, conservation burial grounds are green burial sites that conserve land to increase the conservation goals of an ecologically significant park, wildlife corridor, critical habitat area, or permanently protected open space.


Conservation burial grounds must also be owned by a government or non-profit conservation agency that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes as a public charity and in business for at least five years.



There are two main benefits of green burials that everyone should be aware of:


Environmental Conservation


Green burial sites in the USA and the UK are designed to minimize environmental impact. All green burial products are biodegradable and leave no trace of the deceased as they decompose and return to nature in a way that nourishes the natural landscape.


Affordability


Due to the fact that green burials use much fewer resources, the average green burial cost in the UK and USA is significantly cheaper than the cost of a traditional burial. Green burials make a substantial difference for low-income families and those that want a simple sendoff that includes being one with nature.


The Average Cost of a Green Burial


If you’re planning a green burial for a deceased loved one in the UK or USA, it is important to compare the green burial costs and packages from different service providers, before making the final decision.


UK


The average cost of a green burial in the UK can be between £300 and £3,000. Much depends on the type of green casket you choose, the green burial site where your loved one will be buried, and any additional services such as floral tributes and transportation.


The UK currently has approximately 260 green burial sites across the country.


USA


Green burial in the USA will cost between $1,000 and $4,000. These fees cover the green burial plot and interment of the body. A grave site and interment for cremated remains cost roughly $200 to $1,000. Both options may require a one-off fee for burial site maintenance.


The opportunities to become one with nature are limitless when it comes to green burials. One of the most unique options is creating a memorial garden at home so that the deceased can be buried close by. In the UK, burying a relative on land you own is permitted as long as the death is registered officially and medical professional signs off on the cause.



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