Listen. If you want jokes and nuance, listen to Episode 30: The Death Machine. That’s where we do that sort of thing. This is a bare bones explainer (only pun, I swear) and resource list for readers who are interested in learning more about green burial and funeral practices.
What is Green Burial?
Green, or natural burial, is when a body is buried without the use of chemical embalming, big heavy hardwood or metal caskets, and burial vaults. People choose green burial for environmental, religious, and personal reasons. Public viewings and memorial services are still possible, even without embalming. On the whole, green burials are significantly cheaper than conventional burials. When paired with home funerals, another growing DIY movement, green burial can be even cheaper than cremation.
Many conventional cemeteries require a burial vault - and therefore do not accommodate true green burials. However, there are two types of cemeteries that do allow green burial - conservation burial grounds, and “hybrid” cemeteries. Conservation burial grounds, like Ramsey Creek Preserve, are burial grounds that are used to further environmental conservation. These grounds look more like parks or nature trails than cemeteries, and often have strict requirements about things like headstones, flower plantings, and burial density. “Hybrid” cemeteries are conventional cemeteries that have set aside plots exclusively for green burial. These cemeteries are less dedicated to environmental pursuits.
State by State
Different states have different laws about who is and is not allowed to handle various aspects of the funeral process. Some states require funeral directors to be involved, others do not. In order to prepare for your own death, or the death of a loved one, you’ll need to do some research to see what options are and aren’t available.
If you choose to go the cremation route, here are some interesting things you can do with your ashes, but keep in mind, not all of these services and products get the thumbs up from green burial advocates. So if you’re looking to keep your impact minimal, you might need to do some additional research.
- Help grow coral
- Press them into a diamond
- Have them pressed into a vinyl record
- Put them in a special urn that gets placed under a baby tree
Outside/In was produced this week by:
Taylor Quimby and Sam Evans Brown, with help from Maureen McMurray, Logan Shannon, Molly Donahue, and Jimmy Gutierrez.
Again, special thanks to all the folks we’ve spoken to for these two green burial stories - and to Lee Webster.
Our theme is by Breakmaster Cylinder.
Additional music in this episode from Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.
Outside/In is a production of New Hampshire Public Radio.