These days, there’s a lot of talk about doing what’s best for our environment. Recycling, eco-friendly vehicles, saving electricity and water are just a few ways to protect our earth that might come to mind. But did you know you can have a green funeral? The trend is moving towards utilizing more environmentally friendly means of burial. If you decide to go this route, it seems your choices are expanding.
Simply put, a green burial, also sometimes referred to as a ‘natural’ burial, is a burial that makes environmental sustainability a priority. Read on to learn more about the different and innovative ways one can honor the environment with their choice of final disposition.
Traditional ‘Green’ Burial
A green burial essentially is a way of returning your remains to the earth after your passing, with only natural, biodegradable materials.
According to the Green Burial Council, the organization that oversees green cemeteries in the United States, the key requirement for a green burial is that any container in which the body is buried is environmentally friendly and easy to biodegrade. The majority of people prefer to bury their loved ones in some sort of container, such a shroud or casket, but there really is no requirement for this. If one desires, they can be placed directly in the ground with no container.
The location of where the body is laid to rest also has an effect on the environment. In a proper green burial, there is no headstone. In its place can be a rock, plant or tree. Some cemeteries use GPS to mark locations of gravesites. There are currently 93 certified green cemeteries and memorial woodlands in the United States. Of these 93 cemeteries, there is currently just one in Massachusetts, located in Cambridge. At a green burial site, only natural resources are allowed to be used, they do not have the typical concrete grave liners and vaults found at traditional cemeteries.
Green cemeteries often eschew harmful pesticides and fertilizers for more natural ways to maintain their space. In turn, this natural burial location promotes the growth of trees and plants, which can then bring birds and other wildlife to your resting place; really reuniting your body back to the earth.
What about Cremation?
A green burial with cremation is another way to honor the life of an eco-conscious individual.
An ecological benefit of cremation is that you can scatter the ashes in a natural setting, such as the sea. You can even make an environmentally friendly choice if you choose to keep the remains in an urn. There are companies that make biodegradable urns that can be planted alongside tree seeds, giving new meaning to ‘life after death.’ You can even choose what type of tree you’d like to be planted with. Another option is that you can have your remains made into a concrete ‘reef ball,’ which is then placed into the ocean to create new habitats for fish and other marine life.
Recomposing - A New Alternative
Historically, your two choices for final disposition have been burial or cremation. Recently, there is a new green burial option that has appeared called recomposing. Recomposing is the process of turning remains into compost. It is a soil-based alternative to burying remains. Washington State was the first to pass a bill legalizing “natural organic reduction” of human remains. As it was introduced in the bill, recomposition was defined as “the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil.”
The Seattle-based company Recompose is at the forefront of this new process. A composted person ends up being a cubic yard of soil, which is a pretty large amount. After the remains have been gently transformed into soil Recompose will divide it among the deceased’s family and friends, letting them take as much as they’d like so if they wish they can grow a tree or garden.
With the bill just passed in May of this year (2019) the company and process are still in its early stages and the law will go into effect in May 2020.
It is important to keep in mind that with these options, you are still able to have a traditional viewing and funeral service to remember your loved ones, if you so choose. If you are thinking about having a green funeral or learning more about other burial options, please reach out to our professional and knowledgeable staff at (781) 595-4192 or visit our website at www.solimine.com.