You strive to live a life that’s good for the planet, but what happens when you die?
Traditional burials release a host of toxic chemicals and undegradable material into the ecosystem. However, some alternatives let you live as light on the earth in death as you do in life. ‘Green’ burials or eco burials are designed to be better for the planet by putting bodies in their final resting places in biodegradable caskets or urns and fewer dangerous toxins.
The Environmental Impacts of Cremation & Burials
The business of modern death is terrible for the planet, and it’s time to be concerned. Traditional burials in the United States rely on a wide variety of services that are toxic to the natural world, including embalming fluids, lacquered caskets, fake flowers and heavily mowed gravesites.
Every year, about 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde-based embalming fluids are buried in U.S. cemeteries, and just ten acres of a cemetery can contain over 1,000 tons of steel, 10,000 tons of concrete, and all the wood needed to build 40 homes.
Equally concerning is the spread of mercury and other heavy toxins from the gravesites, as their long-term impacts when they leach into the ecosystem aren’t fully understood.
These are a few of the reasons that people consider green burial.Differences with an Eco Burial
Put simply; a green (or natural) burial is a burial that makes environmental sustainability and simplicity a priority. For an eco burial, the body isn’t embalmed or created and is instead placed in a biodegradable coffin that’s free from metal attachments or a concrete vault.
The goal is that the body will completely decompose and return to the soil, creating a true ‘ashes to ashes’ image at the end. In many cases, green burials will incorporate other eco-friendly elements into the funeral, like local food and fair-trade flowers.
Green burials are gaining popularity today, but they are hardly new. In fact, they are a return to the way all funerals were conducted before the 20th century. Today they are becoming a preferred choice for thousands of people, thanks to the following benefits:
- Less Expensive: Because green burials are devoid of embalming, fancy caskets, and other pricey extras, they tend to be much cheaper than standard funerals.
- More Natural Spaces: Many people find massive graveyards to be ‘creepy.' In contrast, green burials often forgo the tombstone in favor of more natural memorials such as trees instead, as we do at Better Place Forests.
- Simple: For some, the idea of decorating a body before it gets covered in dirt is downright pretentious. Keeping things simple feels more aligned with the natural process of death and decomposition.
- Better Use of Natural Resources: cutting down trees to create a casket that is seen for a day doesn’t make sense for green burial enthusiasts, and most would prefer to have a tree growing above them instead.
- Fewer Hazardous Chemicals: Not only do embalming chemicals like formaldehyde pollute the area around grave sites, but funeral workers are exposed to unsafe amounts throughout their profession.
The Benefits of a Natural Resting Place
Eco or natural burials often take place in more natural spaces for a reason. Green cemeteries are spaces where low impact burials are standard, meaning that most gravesites are marked with flat tombstones or trees instead of the traditional erect headstones.
There are several types of green cemeteries around the world today. Hybrid burial grounds are cemeteries with plots for both ecological and conventional burials, meaning that certain parcels of land are set aside for using only biodegradable products.
Natural burial grounds take sustainability a little farther by restricting the ground to anything but a green burial. Finally, conservation burial grounds seek to improve and preserve land while also offering burial spaces, like in a forest.
At Better Place Forests, we create conservation spreading forests for people who plan on being cremated but prefer the elements of a natural memorial.
How to Create a Natural Memorial with Better Place Forests
Better Place Forests offers families an alternative to traditional cemeteries by allowing you to mark the resting place of a loved one with a tree that will live for centuries. (And will be replanted when it dies.)
Choosing the right memorial for you and your family is essential, and we are ready to help you with any questions that you have. Please reach out through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us directly at 1-888-958-7674.
We look forward to talking soon.
Written by Brad Milne
Brad is a co-founder of Better Place Forests and is focused on marketing, technology and day to day operations.