What is a Green Funeral?
A green - or natural - burial looks to return a body to the
earth, as directly and simply as possible. The goal is as basic as
the burial itself: to invite the dissolution of one's remains and
their reunion with the elements, using what's left of a life to
regenerate new life, to return dust to dust. As a consequence,
green burial prohibits practices that slow that natural process of
decay (including embalming and the use of burial vaults and metal
caskets) and promotes those that allow it (with shrouds and
biodegradable caskets). In the scores of natural cemeteries that
are springing up around the country, bodies aren't just given a
green burial but returned to forests, meadows and other natural
environments where the deceased quite literally live on.
Such simple burial is a natural all the way around. "Green
burial is obviously good for the planet because it consumes so few
resources," says Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters, the
signature book on the green burial trend. "But it's also easy on
the pocketbook, involves families in the funerals, and celebrates
the life of the deceased. And since this is the way our ancestors
buried their loved ones, it's in keeping with a long - and
honorable - tradition."
To find out more about green burial, visit the Grave Matters website or some of the links
Is cremation considered "green"?
Whether cremation should be counted among the
options for "green" disposition is open to debate. Each cremation
does require the consumption of natural gas and/or electricity and
does release pollutants into the atmosphere, including greenhouse
gases and mercury (from dental fillings), an element that has been
traced to developmental delays in young children. It's not without
impact on the environment and clearly not as earth-friendly as natural burial. On
the other hand, it's the likely greener choice than modern burial, with
its concrete burial vault, metal casket and embalming. The resulting "ashes" can also
be returned to a natural environment.