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Green Burials

Ok, I know, most of us don’t really want to think about death and the logistics of what happens when someone dies, however, the reality is that there are numerous environmental issues with the way we handle dying. And, there are ways that we can do better! It turns out there is a growing green burial movement to help us out.

Death is a fact of life that is dealt with in many different ways across different cultures and religions. In Western society, funerals usually include flowers, expensive coffins, often embalming of the deceased, cremations, cemetery plots, and more. These funeral elements are chosen in order to pay respect to the deceased, but it is also important to consider whether these elements reflect the wishes and values of the deceased.

Not only do coffins, flowers, and other embellishments cost thousands of dollars, but they also have quite a significant negative impact on the environment. Traditional funerals aren’t green, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be. Green burials use fewer resources and eliminate some of the traditional steps, allowing us to remember our loved ones in ways that are much less harmful to the environment.

What exactly is a green burial?

Green burials can vary significantly from person to person, but they all aim to limit waste and protect the environment at each stage of the death care process. For example, green burials will often forego the embalming process, as it involves the use of toxic chemicals that will eventually leach into the environment.

Fancy and expensive coffins are also not included in green burials. Instead, people often opt for a simple casket made out of sustainable wood or other fully biodegradable materials.  Another alternative method is a direct earth burial which consists of the remains being wrapped in a shroud made of natural and biodegradable fibres.

Other green burial practices include ecological restoration and conservation of gravesites. In some cases, once a green burial is completed, local indigenous plants such as groundcover, shrubs, and trees are planted. These plants add to the aesthetic value of the graveyard, as well as enhance the ecosystem.

Green burials aren’t just for humans either! The Green Pet Burial Society offers information about environmentally friendly burials for your beloved pets as well.

Green Burial Council

The Green Burial Council is a non-profit organization that provides certification programs for burial grounds, funeral homes, and products in order to create sustainable practices in the funeral industry. Some characteristics of green burial cemeteries include:

  • Forego toxic embalming
  • Eliminate vaults
  • Biodegradable container, caskets, urns
  • No herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
  • Support of land conservation efforts

The Green Burial Council website allows people to find certified funeral homes, cemeteries, and products with their interactive provider maps.

Why opt for a green burial?

Of course, the main reason for a green burial is to decrease one’s impact on the environment. Now that green burials are becoming more popular in Western cultures, there are funeral homes and cemeteries that will honour your burial wishes. Making these deviations from traditional burial methods will result in decreased environmental and financial costs.

Aside from the environmental and financial reasons, you may also find that the concept of a green burial is comforting. The idea of being returned to the earth naturally without harming the environment, and in some cases contributing positively to the environment, can feel really good, even if the topic is uncomfortable.

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