With the slogan ‘Go Green’ gaining popularity, more and more people are becoming aware of their environment and are doing things to save our planet. Recently, in the funeral industry a new concept has emerged called ‘green burial’ which is an eco friendly manner to return the body of the deceased to Mother Nature. This innovative way of caring for the dead body has minimal environmental impact.
During green burial which takes place in a green cemetery, the dead body is left inside the earth to decompose in a natural manner. This eco friendly process helps in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and preservation of habitat. In the USA, green cemetery is also known by other names such as woodland cemetery, eco-cemetery, memorial nature preserve, or natural burial ground.
Those who wish to have a green burial must contact the office of green cemetery in their area. Soon the authorities will come and prepare the dead body for burial without taking help of chemical preservatives. Also during green burial no toxic embalming fluids or vault are used. The body is buried in a simple biodegradable casket made from harvested wood, wicker or recycled paper. The family members can decorate the casket with good-bye messages.
Once the body of the deceased is buried in an eco-friendly manner, family members can even plant a memorial tree over or near the grave. The tree when grows up forms a living memorial in the name of the deceased. This way the trees serve as a marker to locate the grave of the deceased. Instead of plant, natural rocks, wildflowers and shrubs can also be used. Also in all green cemeteries, records are maintained to keep trace of exact location of each dead body burial. This task is often done with the help of modern survey techniques such as Geographic Information System (GIS).
As per the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a traditional funeral is $6,500 plus cemetery costs, whereas the cost of green or natural burial in a green cemetery is just a few thousand dollars.
First Green Cemetery in the US
It was Billy Campbell who introduced the concept of green burial movement in the USA and opened the first modern “green cemetery” of US in the year 1998. This green cemetery is located at the Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina.
Later on Green Burial Council which is an independent and a nonprofit organization worked towards popularizing the concept of green burial in order to protect natural areas. Green Burial Council has also established a guideline for cemeteries, funeral providers and cremation facilities in regards to green burial. Conventional funeral providers working in eight US states offer green burial package approved by the Green Burial Council.
Some of the US States with active or proposed green cemeteries are:
- California where Forever Fernwood is located.
- Colorado where Prairie Wilderness Cemetery (proposed cemetery) is located.
- Florida where Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve is lcoated.
- Maine where Cedar Brook Burial Ground is located.
- New Mexico where The Commonweal Conservancy is located.
- New York where Greenspring Natural Cemetery is located.
- South Carolina where Ramsey Creek Nature Preserve is lcoated.
- Texas where The Ethician Family Cemetery is located.
- Washington where Mother Rest Sacred Grove (proposed) is located.
- Wisconsin where Trust for Natural Legacies, Inc. is located.
Currently, in the US there are few green cemeteries whereas in the UK it is more than two hundred. But with the concept of ‘green burial’ gaining popularity, more green cemeteries will come up in near future. This is just the beginning towards a better environment.
Here are some useful resources on this topic: