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Green Burial

Cayetano Natural Burial Ground at Tulocay Cemetery

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 to fully 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 separate 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.

Effective July 1, 2019




Cayetano Natural Burial Ground at Tulocay Cemetery

Tulocay is pleased to now offer "green" or natural burial products and funeral services in addition to our traditional burial and cremation options. In 1859, Cayetano Juarez retained ownership of Rancho Tulocay, which was approximately 48 acres of the city of Napa, to establish Tulocay Cemetery. Upon his death in 1883, Cayetano was buried at Tulocay Cemetery on his originally donated land. In 2015, approximately two acres of current day Tulocay Cemetery land was designated for green burials and named Cayetano Natural Burial Ground.

The Cayetano Natural Burial Ground is now a specially designated area nestled under the oak trees on the Northeastern part of Tulocay Cemetery's property and is one of only four cemeteries in California certified by the Green Burial Council. The Green Burial Council is a national non-profit certifying body that is the standard-bearer of the growing environmental, social, and consumer Green Burial Movement.

Green Burial Service Package:

What is a green burial?

A green, or natural burial is the interment of the body into the soil in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition but allows the body to recycle naturally. Green, or natural burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.

Simply put, a green burial is an environmentally friendly burial that aims to have as little impact on the earth as possible. 

The main areas of consideration in a green burial are:

  • The conservation of natural resources
  • The preservation of the environment
  • The protection of the health of industry workers

Green Burial Guidelines Set Forth by the Green Burial Council 

"The Green Burial Council believes a casket, urn, or shroud is suitable for a green burial if it is made from materials/substances that are nontoxic and readily biodegradable. We also require that these products not be made from materials that are harvested in a manner that unnecessarily destroys habitat, as is the case with certain types of materials." (Green Burial Council)

  • The body is not embalmed.
  • The casket or burial shroud is made of 100% biodegradable materials.
  • The grave site has no liner or vault.
  • Graves are marked, if desired, with natural stone or rock.

The Green Experience 

Those considering Green Burial are often surprised to discover how engaging and gratifying the process can be for the family and loved ones of the deceased. Green Burial offers many opportunities for families to participate in a variety of steps throughout the burial process, such as carrying their loved one's body to the gravesite, lowering the body into the grave, and filing in the grave space. Though family participation is entirely optional, many families appreciate the intimacy such close involvement provides.

Green Burial is often a more affordable funeral option compared to conventional burial, as it foregoes embalming and an outer container for a natural disposition in a simple wicker, wooden casket, or burial shroud.

Why Choose Green Burial?

The intent of natural burial is to minimize the impact of body burial on the environment but can also cost less than a modern burial as embalming fluids, concrete vaults and traditional caskets contribute to a large portion of a conventional burial's cost. Each year in the United States we bury:

  • 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid; which includes formaldehyde
  • 80,544,000 pounds of steel in caskets
  • 5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze in caskets
  • 30 million board feet of hardwoods in caskets
  • 3,272,000,000 pounds of reinforced concrete vaults and 28,000,000 pounds of steel in vaults (from Mary Woodsen, Cornell University)

Green Burial Service Package                                            $2,965.50
Service Includes:
 o Basic Services with Funeral Director and Staff
 o Transfer of Remains to our Mortuary
 o Preparation of the Remains (Refrigeration, Dressing and Casketing)
 o Transfer to local Cemetery for burial
 o Graveside Committal service
 o Disposition Permit
 o Appropriate State fees


100% European Linen Exterior
100% Cotton Lining
Canvas back and handles

Handwoven from Biodegradable Bamboo
100% Unbleached Cotton Lining

Handwoven from Willow with Seagrass Rope (Not shown in display room)

**Additional Caskets are available for Green Burial.**

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