What is green burial?
Green burial--sometimes called natural burial--is a way of caring for the dead with dignity and minimal environmental impact. Green burials use non-toxic and biodegradable caskets, shrouds, and urns, and the body is not embalmed. Concrete vaults are not used. The land remains in a natural state which does not require the use of lawn fertilizers, pesticides, or extensive landscaping. Natural grave markers, such as flat river stones, are used to mark the grave site. A cemetery may be dedicated to green burials only, or a section of a conventional cemetery may be set aside for green burials. Green burial conserves natural resources, reduces carbon emissions, protects worker health, and preserves or restores natural habitats.
Conservation burial grounds embody the highest level of environmental responsibility. They consist of land designated for green burials, restricted by a permanent conservation easement, with a certified land trust to preserve the land in its natural state in perpetuity.
Each year in the United States, we bury over 850,000 gallons of embalming fluid, over a million and a half tons of reinforced concrete, almost a hundred thousand tons of steel, almost three thousand tons of copper and bronze, and over 30 million board feet of hardwoods. As the years go on, these numbers will only increase if we continue our current burial practices. Green Burial can help reverse this trend. Also, embalming fluid and casket finishes have been associated with adverse health consequences for workers exposed to them. Green Burial eliminates this health threat.
Green cemeteries in Maryland
As of 2015, in Maryland there is only one conventional cemetery with a green burial option. The number of Green Burial Council approved providers in North America, including funeral homes, cemeteries and product providers, has grown from 1 in 2006 to more than 340 currently. They are operating in 41 states and 6 provinces in Canada. Please see Resources for information about green burial providers.