Natural burial aims to keep every aspect of the burial as organic as possible, so that the body may be recycled back to earth naturally. This means that there will be no need for embalming solutions that inhibit decomposition, and neither will there be a need for non-biodegradable caskets, vaults and other funeral products.
When burying the dead, the aim is to honor the person in the best way possible. However, a conventional burial is not necessarily more honorable or respectful to the deceased. In fact, natural burial methods have been around for thousands of years and are more traditional than the burial methods used today. Modern technological advances, such as vaults, liners, embalming, and so on, mitigate the decomposition process. A natural burial not only honors the deceased, but also better respects the environment.
Natural Burial Questions and Answers
How does a traditional funeral impact the environment?
Every year, caskets and coffins alone make use of thirty million board feet of wood and ninety thousand tons of steel. There is also an additional one million and six hundred thousand tons of concrete that are used for burial vaults. This has a significant impact on the environment and is not necessary for burying a body.
Furthermore, traditional cemeteries typically have very few trees and are filled with unnatural stone monuments, grave markers and mausoleums. A traditional cemetery causes unnecessary harm to the local environment. A natural burial takes places in a green burial ground where native flora and wildlife flourish.
What is a natural burial?
A natural burial is a method of burying the dead with minimal impact to the local environment. In addition to the reduced impact to the local environment, a natural burial typically includes other eco-friendly products and practices. Reduction of carbon emissions, preservation of habitat and conservation of resources are just a few ways that a natural burial and green funeral positively impact the environment.
Is natural burial legal?
Yes. There are currently no legal regulations for natural burials; however, cemeteries will have a set of practices and rules. In certain cases embalming may be legally required, but generally it is ok to bury a body naturally without embalming.
What is wrong with embalming?
An approximate eight hundred thousand gallons of embalming fluid is used in North America each year. Embalming fluids can significantly contaminate the soil and water tables as the body breaks down into the earth. Fortunately, there are now formaldehyde-free embalming fluids available. They are nontoxic and are made from biodegradable essential oils. However, these chemicals are still not widely used. Furthermore, embalming is not necessary and a natural burial can take place without the use of any chemicals.
Doesn’t embalming preserve the body?
No. Embalming only slows the decomposition process by a few weeks to months.
Can we have a viewing if the body is not embalmed?
This may be an option, but will need to be discussed with your funeral director. Policies for viewing unembalmed bodies vary from state to state and funeral home to funeral home. If you want a green funeral without embalming and sill want to have a viewing, you will need to find a funeral home that will accommodate your wishes.
Is cremation a green option?
Cremation uses fewer resources than a traditional funeral and is therefore often considered a greener option. However, a cremation has an environmental impact and is not as eco-friendly as a natural burial. Cremation burns fossils fuels and a single cremation can use the same amount of energy as driving a car more than 4000 miles. Furthermore, toxic chemicals are emitted into the air including mercury, which is primarily from dental amalgam fillings. Modern crematoriums are more energy efficient and have advanced filtration systems. However, even with the latest technology a cremation still has more of an environmental impact than a natural burial.
Are concrete burial vaults environmentally friendly?
Even though burial vaults are typically made of concrete, which some may consider green, the manufacturing of these vaults uses a significant amount of energy. The manufacturing and transportation of concrete burial vaults produces a lot of carbon emission. Vaults are required in conventional cemeteries and prevent the ground from sinking in above the casket. A natural burial in a green cemetery does not require a vault, which is better for the environment and also less expensive.
Will animals disturb the gravesite if there is no vault?
No. Vaults are a modern technology and burial without vaults has been conducted for thousands of years. Animals do not dig in to graves and there is no risk of animals disturbing a grave in a natural cemetery.
What is a Green Burial Council certified cemetery?
“The Green Burial Council is an independent, tax-exempt, nonprofit organization working to encourage environmentally sustainable death care and the use of burial as a new means of protecting natural areas”. Green Burial Council certification helps consumers distinguish between different types of burial grounds. It requires cemetery operators to commit to a certain degree of transparency, accountability and third party oversight.
The natural method of burial aims to reduce the environmental hazards associated with traditional burials and funerals. The practice of green burials is present in some of the most progressive countries in the world. Many countries have set guidelines on how to make sure that a natural burial can be carried out properly and without hazard to the deceased or the environment. When planning a loved ones funeral, opt for a natural burial. Natural burials are less expensive than a tradition burial and better for the environment.
Updated: March 10, 2013