When thinking about living sustainably, there are so many important changes we can make to our everyday lives that we are constantly reminded of. Reduce waste, save water, recycle... But what about after we are gone?
Funerals are an important ritual and the industry is a massive one that we will all contribute to, both in life, and in death. Even if we don't want to think about them in our daily life. However, when it comes to planning for a sustainable future, it is a conversation we simply must be having.
The environmental impact of the funeral industry
According to the Green Burial Council, traditional burials in America put an estimated 20 million feet of wood, 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluids, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, 17,000 tons of copper & bronze, and 64,500 tons of steel in the ground each year. In addition to the vast amount of materials, cemeteries themselves take up an estimated 1 million acres of land.
What legacy do you want to leave?
If living respectfully of the Earth and making natural and green choices is something that is important in your life, then your passing should reflect that. Planning a green burial is a beautiful way to be honored and remembered while also respecting the planet. The cost is about the same, or even less than a traditional burial.
While the appeal of a green burial resonates with many, a lack of awareness and resources are some of the main reasons why more people aren't choosing them. This article will help you better understand what a green burial is and what is important when planning one.
What is a green burial?
A green or natural burial is a way of caring for the deceased that will minimize the environmental impacts and contribute to the restoration and preservation of natural habitats. By conserving resources, reducing emissions and using non-toxic or biodegradable materials, green burials are about making eco-friendly choices to benefit the planet and future generations.
Where can you have a green burial?
Green cemeteries or a natural burial grounds are protected spaces that meet environmental standards set by the government to be designated a natural burial site. They use only natural markers such as shrubs, trees, and local stones so ensure there is no disruption to the landscape. These special spots are also protected and cannot be used for anything else. The ongoing protection and preservation of the land is a priority.
What you need to know when planning a green burial
Avoid Cremation - According to this Reuters article, standard cremation emits approximately 400 kgs (880 lbs) of carbon dioxide, as well as other pollutants like dioxins and mercury vapor from metal teeth fillings. It also uses as much natural gas and electricity, as a 500-mile (800 kilometers) car trip.
Pass on embalming - Many people don’t realize that embalming is actually not necessary and is more for cosmetic purposes. Decomposition is a natural process by design and any chemicals added to the body to prolong this process work against nature.
Put as little as possible into the ground - With a green burial, no grave liners or heavy caskets are used. Instead, the remains are placed or wrapped in fully biodegradable material that will allow for natural decomposition.
Protect and re-establish the area - After the burial and when the grave has settled, planting and encouraging regrowth to benefit the areas natural eco-system is paramount to a green burial so that the land can replenish itself and restore natural balance.
Reduce visitation - To preserve the land, visitation to the individuals grave site at a green burial site may be discouraged or limited so that the disruption to the natural environment is minimal. Instead, the site itself becomes a living memorial and tribute the those buried there.
Minimal infrastructure & optimized space - A green burial site must make use of the land to optimize the space so there will be minimal infrastructures such as roads and pathways. In the long term, the re-use of graves is also a practice that will help keep the grounds sustainable for generations to come.
Green burials are not just for humans, but for pets too. Visit greenpetburial.org to learn more.
Plantable Memorial Products for Green Burials
If you're looking for a beautiful way to commemorate and celebrate the life of a loved in a natural and eco-friendly way, Botanical PaperWorks plantable seed paper memorial cards and favors are a memorable choice. Each piece uses a special seed-infused paper, that is made with post-consumer materials. When you plant the paper, you’ll grow a wildflower garden as a beautiful living reminder of your loved one.
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