Funeral Home Services and Green Burials

What are Green Burials?

Why are More Families Choosing Them?

Green burials are those that have a main focus of preserving nature and creating an overall burial experience that is considered to be environmentally friendly.  Green burials have also been commonly used to facilitate ecological restoration and landscape-level conservation.

Some of the differences in Green Burials are that they can take place without the use of certain elements such as formaldehyde-based embalming, metal caskets, and concrete burial vaults.  Although these elements have primarily been the way the funeral and cemetery industry has cared for the deceased for thousands of years (up until the late 19th century), there is now a growing debate over whether the traditional burial options can have a negative effect on the environment.

Therefore, more families are choosing these green burials, as well as many other different kinds of burial and cremation options.  The funeral industry is also recognizing these changes and coming out with some new and cutting-edge funeral and memorial services technology tools that are rapidly becoming excellent alternatives to the traditional cremations urns or ash scatterings, such as new gravestone technology and memorial diamonds.

Does a Green Burial Help Restoration or Conservation?

Natural burial grounds are required to have in place a deed restriction to ensure that if you are searching for a Green Cemetery, it will continue to remain one in the future.  Conservation burial grounds have a conservation easement held by an established Land Trust. The key to success is in requiring transparency and accountability, and a system of checks and balances.

Why Do Some Believe Embalming is Damaging?

Since there is no “wrong” end-of-life planning ritual or disposition option, a green funeral or burial is available to ensure these options are available for those families who wish to minimize the environmental impact.  The primary environmental issue that has been addressed with embalming fluid is that it contains formaldehyde, which some people allege can be a “probable” carcinogen according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, and according to the World Health Organization, has also been referred to as a “known carcinogen”.

There have also been allegations and speculation that embalming can potentially create health risks for workers and could also be associated with several diseases such as nasal cancer and leukemia.   As far as what is required in a burial, there are very few circumstances that actually require embalming by law, including a “funeral with a viewing”.  Some Funeral Directors make available refrigeration or dry ice as an alternative to embalming.

Green Burials

What are Some Environmental Issues With Burial Vaults?

Originally developed to deter grave robbers in the late 19th century, burial vaults are required today by many Cemeteries in order to help prevent the ground from sinking and markers from moving. There is no state or federal laws requiring the use of a vault, though cemeteries are allowed to have policies that do.  Some conventional Cemeteries now offer consumers the option of paying additional amounts of money in an Endowment Care Fund to handle potential maintenance associated with vault-less burial.  Many however, offer vault-less burials at no additional charge. Although the concrete and metal in vaults are considered “natural” to most people, the argument many people have is in the manufacturing and transporting of vaults, which utilizes a tremendous amount of energy and is believed to contribute to 1.6 tons of reinforced concrete being produced.

Are Cremations Considered an Eco-Friendly Form of Disposition?

Those who choose cremations tend to use far fewer resources than almost any other disposition option.  However, many people challenge that it also has an environmental impact and “carbon footprint.”  The actual cremation process also burns large quantities of fossil fuels, and some older cremation facilities can use significantly more energy compared to the newer ones built in today’s modern era.  There is also speculation, although the amount is widely debated, that Mercury is also emitted when a person with dental amalgam fillings is cremated.

What is a Home Funeral Versus a Home Burial?

Home funerals allow for families to care for a decedent, including all aspects of a funeral, while at home.  In fact, these home funerals were quite common in the US up until the mid-20th century. A family can facilitate a home funeral on their own; with the assistance of a home funeral practitioner; or in conjunction with a licensed Funeral Director. Some states require the latter.  Home burial, on the other hand, is an alternative to burial in a Cemetery. It’s allowed for in most parts of the country, but usually requires the home to have a minimum level of acreage.  Home burial has historically been most common in rural areas.