Death is a natural part of life, and the way we choose to honour and dispose of our loved ones’ remains has a significant impact on the environment. Traditional burial practices can be harmful, using toxic embalming fluids and non-biodegradable caskets that take up space and can contaminate nearby ecosystems. Fortunately, there is a growing movement towards green burial, which offers a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional funeral practices. In this article, we’ll explore what green burial is, how it works, and its benefits for both the environment and those who choose it.

Green Burial: A Sustainable Alternative for Final Farewells

What is Green Burial?

Green burial, also known as natural burial, is a way of disposing of a body with as little impact on the environment as possible. It involves burying the deceased in a natural setting, without the use of embalming fluids, non-biodegradable caskets, or concrete vaults. Instead, the body is placed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud, allowing it to decompose naturally and return to the earth. This process helps to conserve natural resources, preserve wildlife habitats, and reduce carbon emissions.

How Does Green Burial Work?

Green burial involves several steps that are different from traditional burial practices:

No Embalming

Unlike traditional burial, which typically involves embalming the body with toxic chemicals to preserve it, green burial does not require embalming. This means that the body can decompose naturally and safely.

Biodegradable Coffin or Shroud

Green burial requires the use of a biodegradable coffin or shroud made from sustainable or recycled materials, such as bamboo, willow, or pine [5]. These materials decompose quickly and do not harm the environment.

No Concrete Vault

In a traditional burial, a concrete vault is often used to encase the coffin and prevent the ground from sinking. However, in green burial, no vault is used, allowing the body to decompose naturally.

Natural Setting

Green burials typically take place in a natural setting, such as a forest or meadow, rather than a traditional cemetery. This allows the body to return to the earth and become part of the natural ecosystem.

Benefits of Green Burial

Green burial offers several benefits for the environment and those who choose it:

Environmental Benefits

Green burial is a sustainable and eco-friendly way to dispose of human remains. By using biodegradable materials and avoiding toxic embalming fluids, it helps to reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources, and preserve wildlife habitats [4]. In addition, green burial grounds can serve as wildlife refuges, providing habitats for animals and native plant life [4].

Emotional Benefits

A green burial can offer emotional benefits as well. For some people, being buried in a natural setting can provide a sense of peace and connection to the natural world. It can also be a way to honour a loved one’s life and legacy in a meaningful way [6].

Cost Benefits

Traditional burial can be expensive, with the average cost of a basic burial in the UK being £4,267 [3]. Green burial, on the other hand, can be a more affordable option, as it avoids the cost of embalming, expensive caskets, and cemetery fees. This makes it an attractive option for those who are looking to reduce funeral costs while still providing a meaningful and sustainable farewell for their loved ones [9]. In addition, some green burial providers offer payment plans and other options to help make the cost more manageable for families.

Types of Green Burial

Green burial is a flexible and customizable option, allowing families to choose from a variety of methods and options that suit their preferences and beliefs. Some of the types of green burial include:

Natural Burial Grounds

Natural burial grounds are dedicated green spaces that are designed for green burial. They may be privately owned or run by non-profit organizations and offer a natural setting for burial without the use of embalming or non-biodegradable materials [4].

Home Burial

Home burial is another option for those who prefer a more intimate and personalized farewell. It involves burying the deceased on private property, with the appropriate permits and regulations [10].

Water Cremation

Water cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, is a newer alternative to traditional cremation. It uses water and alkaline chemicals to break down the body chemically, leaving only bone fragments that can be turned into ashes. This process uses less energy and does not produce emissions like traditional cremation [2].

Conservation Burial

Conservation burial is a green burial option that involves burying the deceased in a protected natural area, such as a nature preserve or wildlife sanctuary. This helps to conserve natural resources and wildlife habitats, while also providing a natural resting place for the deceased [4].