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What is Green Burial? An Alternative Rest

Green BurialWhen considering after end of life options, there are alternatives to traditional burial in a cemetery and cremation. The old but new trend capturing the attention of many Americans is green burial. Think of this choice in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition but allows the body to recycle naturally, resting in a place of natural beauty without chemicals and at a much lower cost.

Everything old is new again

Green burials are not new. Most burials before the mid-19th century were conducted this way, although internment in what we view as regular cemeteries has been the norm for hundreds of years. The idea of wrapping the body in a shroud or placing it in a plain, unadorned coffin appeals to those who prefer the arrangement to be simple, natural and unpretentious..

Green, or natural burial as many refer to it, is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact and non-toxic, biodegradable materials. A casket, urn, or shroud is suitable for a green burial if it is made from materials or substances that are nontoxic and readily biodegradable, such as linen, bamboo, and wood. No ornate grave markers are used – instead a natural stone marker, shrub or tree is the identifier. And because it is 2017, GIS (Geographical Information System) is the chosen marking system among those who enjoy all things digital.

Advocates for green burial services often refer to a National Cancer Institute study from 2009 that links embalming fluid (comprised of chemical formaldehyde, a known carcinogen) with increased risk of myeloid leukemia among funeral directors.

The numbers:
Green burial can cost thousands of dollars less than traditional cemetery burial. Each year, US cemeteries bury over 30 million board feet of hardwood caskets and 90,000 tons of steel in caskets
as well as 17,000 tons of steel and copper in vaults. 33 states plus Washington DC allow for green burial – you can find resources near you at your local NFDA funeral provider.

Conserving natural resources, preserving natural areas and love of nature are frequently-cited reasons for choosing green burial. This type of burial site offers food and refuge to birds and other wildlife, as well as bringing a sense of peace and calm to your loved ones the day of your burial and during each visit after.

An End of Life Doula can help with research and arrangements toward your green burial. If this is something you or a family member is interested in, please contact Patti Urban.

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