Choosing Green Burial
1. Embalming is rarely required by law. The Federal Trade Commission and many state regulators require that funeral directors inform consumers that embalming is not required except in certain special cases. Embalming provides no public health benefit, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Refrigeration is an alternative to maintain a body while awaiting a funeral service.
2. Biodegradable Caskets. Many exciting options exist when one foregoes the conventional steel and hardwood models on the showroom floor. For a green burial in a natural cemetery, a homemade wooden coffin or wicker basket can be used, or the body can simply be wrapped in a shroud, family quilt, or favorite blanket.
3. Vaults or Grave Liners are not required by law. In a conventional cemetery, sealed caskets are routinely interred in steel or concrete vaults, the sole purpose of which is to prevent the sod or turf of the cemetery lawn from sinking. You roll back the sod from a modern cemetery and you’ve got a parking lot. No vaults or sealed caskets are allowed in a natural cemetery.
4. Cremation is not better for the environment. Burning uses fossil fuels and releases toxic chemicals from the casket, embalming fluid (if used), mercury from dental work, and possible pollutants from other un-extracted medical devices into the atmosphere. Cremation turns a body’s natural nutrients - - which the earth could use - - into air pollution.
Interest in cremation grew as conventional cemeteries spread over urban green space, but now many understand natural burial to be a more earth-friendly option and a way to preserve green space.