WHAT IS GREEN BURIAL?
As the saying goes, Death and Taxes...When the inevitable time comes to care for the body of a loved one who has died, there is new movement afoot to return to the old way of doing things. It’s called natural or green burial.
Prior to the Civil War in the United States, the deceased's body was simply buried in a community cemetery or on a family's property. During the war however, many soldiers died on battlefields while so far from home, there became a growing need for a way to preserve the dead for the long journey back home to a decent burial. Families wanted to see their fallen fathers and sons one last time, so the process of embalming came into use. In the 1890's, as embalming procedures improved and the cost became more reasonable, it became common practice for families to have their loved ones embalmed before a visitation or viewing in their homes or at a funeral parlor. Simply put, embalming involves pumping a chemical fluid into the circulatory system to preserve and disinfect a body prior to burial, slowing down natural decomposition long enough to allow for viewing and final goodbyes. The body is then placed into a wooden coffin or metal casket and placed in the ground, usually in a cement liner.
A green burial on the other hand, is done without the use of chemical preservatives which might destroy or inhibit the natural breakdown of the body. The deceased is not embalmed (no state in the US requires embalming by law, except in a very few select cases), allowing the body tofully decompose and return to the earth, truly embodying the phrase we hear so often at funerals…'ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ There are also formaldehyde free embalming fluids for the preservation and sanitation of the body for those families who wish a traditional funeral service with the green burial.
With a natural burial, the body is placed in a casket or a shroud made of non-toxic biodegradable material and placed directly in the ground without any type of liner or vault. Depth may vary slightly, but graves are dug no deeper than 4 feet [with 3.5 feet optimal] for encouraging maximum natural decomposition. The intention is to hasten the return of the body to the natural world and to integrate the remains within the cycles of nature. All organisms that have lived, have died and returned to the soil, where constant microbial activity in the soil breaks everything down and recycles to new life.
In the past 20 years, cremation has become the overwhelming second option to traditional burial, mainly due to cost, but also for environmental reasons. While the cost of a green burial is substantially less than a traditional burial, it is only slightly more expensive than the burial of cremated remains and it is even more earth-friendly when considering burial or cremation.
There are many things to take into consideration when the time comes to care for a loved one's body after death. Whether the family chooses traditional burial, cremation or green burial, it is a very personal decision and one that is not to be taken lightly. The biggest decision is how to best honor and celebrate [a loved one’s] life. Should there be a formal service at a church or funeral home or smaller gatherings at a park or home, green burial is an option to consider. A our staff can help you navigate the ins and outs of these important decisions.
A green burial service is usually just a graveside service using a shroud or an eco-friendly casket. However some families choose to have a memorial service seperate from the burial, while others choose to have a home wake or service. Our staff can help you plan whatever you need to honor the life of your loved one.