Green burials have grown in popularity in recent years as more and more people seek earth-friendly alternatives for final disposition of cremated remains.
What is a Green Burial?
Green burials are burials that are performed in a way that’s friendly to the environment and the earth, using biodegradable materials that naturally dissolve into the soil over time, allowing the body to also return to the soil without the addition of potentially harmful embalming chemicals. By selecting a cremation without embalming and then combining it with a biodegradable urn for ashes, you can help your loved one honor his or her commitment to a better natural world and decrease your impact on the environment now and for eons to come.
While many people associate green burials with interment of whole remains, cremated remains may also be disposed of in a eco-friendly manner using a broad variety of biodegradable urns. Many people believe green burials are the way nature intended for final disposition of remains, allowing them to be gently recycled into the soil, ultimately fostering the growth of new life.
History of Green Burials
The history of green burials is as old as mankind. Long before there were embalming fluids, bodies were laid to rest in the soil where they gradually decomposed over time in a manner that nurtures the soil and all living things. In fact, until relatively recent times, green burials were the mode most commonly used by all cultures except the ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations and some other cultures that relied on mummification to preserve prominent members of their societies. Even in these cultures, green burials were used for the vast majority of people.
During the Renaissance, scientific researchers began studying forms of embalming as a way to preserve organs for scientific study, but it was not until the nineteenth century that embalming became more popular as families sought ways to preserve bodies of loved ones who died far from home. Even then, embalming initially was used simply as a way to preserve the body for transport back to the deceased’s home for final interment. Over time, embalming became the “norm” in many societies including the U.S., and many communities began requiring embalming which was believed to prevent the spread of certain diseases after death, especially when viewing periods were prolonged.
Green burials have enjoyed a resurgence during the past half century as people have sought ways to reconnect with the earth and decrease their impact on the environment.
Modern green burial ceremonies often incorporate many of the same rituals and practices as traditional burial services, including eulogies and hymns. They may begin with a gathering to remember the deceased, similar to a viewing ceremony that precedes the actual funeral service. The funeral service itself may be designed to suit your loved one’s wishes as well as those of you and your family. After the funeral service ends, you may want to invite those in attendance to the grave site for a graveside ceremony, or you may reserve that option for family members and other close friends. Or you may opt out of the more traditional funeral service entirely and hold a simple service at the grave side.
Depending on the location of the burial, you might consider providing flower seeds for attendees to spread on top of the site once the urn is interred, much as flowers are placed on top of a casket in a more traditional ceremony. Some people use candles or release doves or butterflies during the ceremony. In lieu of flowers, many people ask friends and family to donate to nature charities or to provide bags of pet food to local animal shelters. Some green burial sites offer opportunities for donations to fund tree plantings, birdhouses or benches.
Urns for Green Burials
When selecting an urn for a green burial, obviously the first requirement is that it be biodegradable. Today, there are many biodegradable urns available that can help you honor your loved one in a unique way that’s meaningful to his or her life and serves as a unique and fitting tribute. Natural urns come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, incorporating features like artwork or other attributes that reflect the deceased’s own personal interests or reflect a nature theme.
From box and pillow designs composed of 100 percent biodegradable materials to urns made of sweet grass and palm, containers designed for green burial are uniquely crafted to be as kind to the earth as possible, minimizing the impact on the earth and also avoiding the costs associated with embalming and traditional caskets. Small pod-shaped urns allow more than one person to be involved in placing the remains in the earth, and keepsake cremation urns allow you to memorialize your loved one for generations to come.
Honoring Your Loved One
Green burials are about far more than saving money or even saving the earth: They’re about helping your loved one honor their own personal commitment to reducing their carbon footprint and embracing the earth and the environment in a way that serves the environment in a truly meaningful and long-lasting way. For those whose commitments to nature run deep, no higher final tribute can be paid than to enable them to give back to the earth as a last gesture of their deep and abiding love for nature.