What is Green Burial? Being a rather new topic in the Death Care industry, let us take a closer look at what it means to be “buried green.”
It’s no secret that the Death Care industry utilizes many resources when a death occurs. Rather you are cremated or buried traditionally, there is still an extensive “environmental footprint” left behind when you or a loved one passes away. The growing concern regarding the amount of space cemeteries take up, machine power to perform the interment, chemicals used for embalming, and heavy carbon emissions from a cremation ultimately is what inspired the Green Burial Council.
The Green Burial Council (GBC) sets the standard for green burials ensuring the protection of worker health, reduction of carbon emissions, conservation of natural resources, and preservation of habitat are all maintained through the entire process.
The GBC certifies funeral homes, cemeteries, and products around the country so that regardless of where you are, if your wish is to do a green burial, you have the necessary tools to make sure it is done correctly. In essence, a green burial should conserve energy, minimize waste, and not require the use of toxic chemicals.
Green Funeral Homes– If a funeral home has been certified, it should be obvious as the GBC logo will be included on their price list. When certifying a funeral home, there is a “leaf rating system” used to determine to what capacity the funeral home performs green burials. The GBC takes into consideration the following:
- Offering the decedent’s family the option of a public viewing without embalming, or use only GBC approved post-mortem fluids.
- Carrying at least three GBC approved or rated burial containers.
- Accommodating home vigils without embalming, or use only GBC approved post-mortem fluids.
- Offering sanitation and temporary preservation of a decedent using only noninvasive techniques and materials i.e. refrigeration/dry ice.
Green Cemeteries– The GBC rates cemeteries into three categories. Notice below that often the discussion surrounds the requirement of an outer burial container and the chemicals used to perform the burial.
Hybrid Cemetery– A conventional cemetery that does not require the use of an outer burial container or embalming to conduct a burial. Must allow option for any type of eco friendly burial container, including shrouds.
Natural Burial Grounds– Prohibits the use of vaults, embalming chemicals, and burial containers not made from natural materials. Must have in place a program of Integrated Pest Management for the grounds.
Conservation Burial Grounds– Meets all requirements of Natural Burial Ground and also layers in the element of conservation, or protection of land designated by an established conservation organization.
Green Products– There are various eco-friendly certified products including caskets, urns, preparation products and shrouds that all bear in mind the standards set by the GBC.
With Green Burial still being a new topic on the horizon of the Death Care industry, there remains room for growth across the United States. What started from 1 approved provider in 2006 has grown to more than 300 providers in 41 states and 6 provinces in Canada today. As demand continues, it is safe to say this number will only continue to increase in coming years. The GBC delivers peace of mind for those who are receiving green and natural burial services that their providers are thoroughly vetted and frequently reviewed by a team of environmentalists, scientists, lawyers, and representatives from the funeral industry.
On a softer note, why might someone consider green burial beyond the environmental aspect? Green burial encompasses a feeling that is difficult to embody if you have never been to or participated in a green burial service before. The entire process of commemorating that person’s life is different than that of a traditional service. Many feel that the green burial process welcomes the family to be much more involved in a very intimate way commemorating the life of their loved one. For example, in some funeral homes, the family may participate in wrapping the loved one in shrouds in preparation for the burial. Family may also assist in lowering their loved one into the grave and then help cover the grave afterward. Each of these details invites the family to be a participant rather than a spectator. It empowers the family to engage, which ultimately can be healing and help ease the pain for the loss of their loved one. It’s a send-off that “leaves people feeling happy they knew you” (quote from GBC website).