Green Funerals

What are Green Funerals?

A green - or natural - funeral looks to return a body to the earth, as directly and simply as possible. The goal is as basic as the burial itself: to invite the dissolution of one's remains and their reunion with the elements, using what's left of a life to regenerate new life, to return dust to dust. As a consequence, green burial prohibits practices that slow that natural process of decay (including embalming and the use of burial vaults and metal caskets) and promotes those that allow it (with shrouds and biodegradable caskets). In the scores of natural cemeteries that are springing up around the country, bodies aren't just given a green burial but returned to forests, meadows and other natural environments where the deceased quite literally live on.

Such simple burial is a natural all the way around. "Green burial is obviously good for the planet because it consumes so few resources," says Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters, the signature book on the green burial trend. "But it's also easy on the pocketbook, involves families in the funerals, and celebrates the life of the deceased. And since this is the way our ancestors buried their loved ones, it's in keeping with a long - and honorable - tradition."

To find out more about green burial, visit the Grave Matters website or some of the links below:

Is cremation considered "green"?

Whether cremation should be counted among the options for "green" disposition is open to debate. Each cremation does require the consumption of natural gas and/or electricity and does release pollutants into the atmosphere, including greenhouse gases and mercury (from dental fillings), an element that has been traced to developmental delays in young children. It's not without impact on the environment and clearly not as earth-friendly as natural burial. On the other hand, it's the likely greener choice than modern burial, with its concrete burial vault, metal casket and embalming. The resulting "ashes" can also be returned to a natural environment.

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Grave Matters
By Mark Harris
Mark Harris