Natural burial, sometimes called green burial, has been the traditional method of burial until the last 150 years. It is a way of caring for the dead with dignity and minimal impact on the environment. Natural burials use non-toxic and biodegradable caskets or shrouds, and the body is not embalmed. Neither concrete vaults nor grave liners are used. The land remains in a natural state that does not require the use of lawn fertilizers, pesticides, or extensive landscaping. Natural grave markers, such as flat river stones, or native plantings are used to mark the grave site. Natural burial conserves resources, reduces carbon emissions, protects workers’ health, and preserves or restores natural habitats.
Options for Natural Burial
Hybrid Cemeteries are conventional cemeteries that have set aside a portion of their grounds for natural burial.
Natural Burial Parks are wholly dedicated to natural burials.
Conservation Burial Grounds embody the highest level of environmental responsibility. They consist of land designated for natural burials, restricted to preserve the land in perpetuity.
Environmental Impact of Conventional Burial
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 100,000 tons of steel, almost 3,000 tons of copper and bronze, and over 30 million board feet of hardwoods. In addition, embalming fluids and casket finishes leach into the soil and are associated with adverse health consequences in workers exposed to them. Natural burial eliminates these threats to health and the environment.
Benefits of Natural Burial
In addition to the environmental and health benefits, natural burial allows family and friends to participate more fully in the experience of burying a loved one. Instead of one’s final act being an addition to global warming, natural burial returns earthly remains to the earth and the ongoing cycle of life.