Green or Natural Burial Provider
What is a Green or Natural Burial?
A green or natural burial 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 its
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. "Natural
burial is obviously good for the planet because it uses 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."
How to find a green or natural burial
Natural burial cemeteries
There are well over 100 cemeteries in the United States and
Canada that allow for natural burial. Some two dozen are
independent cemeteries dedicated solely to natural burial. The
others are traditional cemeteries that either allow for
vaultless/green burial anywhere on their grounds or accommodate
green burial only in separate areas that are more natural in
appearance and function.
The Green Burial Council, a nonprofit
organization that works to encourage environmentally-sustainable
deathcare, has drafted standards for green cemeteries. You'll find
a list of GBC-certified cemeteries on the Green Burial Council
website. For those and others, click Natural Burial Co-operative and the Natural End websites.
A note about scattering cremated remains. You may legally
scatter cremated remains on your own land. On private property,
you'll need the permission of the landowner. Check with the
appropriate government entity, such as the National Park Service,
before scattering on public lands.
Your local funeral director may provide green services
(refrigeration in lieu of embalming) and products (biodegradable
caskets and urns). You'll find a list of funeral directors who have
agreed to do that on the Green Burial Council
website and on the Natural End website.
Before hiring any funeral director or other provider for a green
burial and/or funeral, confirm the exact nature of the goods and
services you expect to receive.
Home funeral guides
An increasing number of families are returning to the long
tradition of holding funerals at home, with or without the
assistance of a funeral director. To find out more about home
funerals, the role of a home funeral guide and how to find one,
please visit Heart2Soul's Home Funeral page.
What you can expect from a green or natural
A green or natural burial provider should be able to offer you a
range of goods and services to accommodate your need for a funeral,
cremation and/or burial. Among them:
- Caskets made from biodegradable material, including cardboard,
wood, wicker, bamboo, seagrass and papier mâché, among others. You
may also make your own green casket, hire a local carpenter to do
it for you, or order one from any number of online sites.
- Urns made from natural materials that will degrade in aquatic
or earthen environments.
- Memorial reef structures. A handful or organizations can add
the cremated remains of your loved one to artificial reef
What should you expect to pay for a green or
Depending on the exact nature and number of goods and services
you choose, as well as the fees of the particular cemetery, a
natural burial can run anywhere from a few hundred to many
thousands of dollars. On average, the cost of a plot in a natural
cemetery is in the $2,000 range, plus opening/closing costs. We
encourage you to confirm pricing, ask for references and interview
any funeral professional you are considering hiring.