Choosing Green Burial

Green burial expert Elizabeth Fournier at work.

As people have become more aware of their impact on the planet, more are choosing green burial options for themselves and those they love. However, many who are interested in planning an earth-friendly burial have no idea where to start. Fortunately, there are resources available that will show you how to start your planning process. One such source is green burial expert and mortician Elizabeth Fournier. See what advice she has to offer in the following interview.

Choosing Green Burial

Why are green burials so popular?

I have found that various sorts of natural burial options are increasingly popular due to a collective, heightened consciousness. People aren't interested so much in how they will be remembered, but rather how they can continue to give back. Even in death.Green burials are obviously kinder to the environment and a more natural way to go. They offer a smart way to protect and preserve natural landscape. This method of disposition provides a habitat for native plants, wildlife and birds to live and flourish.

 I talk to people quite a bit about this subject. The comment I continuously hear is the wish to have a tree planted above or next to the burial spot where that person will be buried. Their body would then fertilize the tree, and they find that thought heartening.

What are the most important components of a green burial?

In the most customary sense, a green burial means a person is buried in a container that can decompose, along with their remains, and return to the earth's soil. This can be achieved by being laid to rest in your favorite comforter or sheet, or in a specific type of casket. Earth friendly caskets are crafted out of a variety of materials: Wood, bamboo, banana leaves, even willow branches. Absolutely no metals, plastics, stains, varnishes or oils can be used in these caskets.Also, green burial is burial that can take place without the use of formaldehyde-based embalming and concrete burial vaults. It's fundamentally the way most of humankind has cared for its dead since the beginning of time. It is to be noted that green burial can also be used to facilitate ecological restoration and landscape-level conservation.

Planning an Earth-Friendly Burial

What things should be considered for an earth-friendly burial?

If you want to be more eco-friendly, think less extravagantly. Rather than fresh-cut flowers, choose a plant that can be replanted. Sustainability, it seems, can be practiced in all aspects of one's life--including death. Do keep in mind--the concept of a green burial is not a new idea. It is the oldest and most natural form of interment. And back in the day, the body was always kept at home.

A home funeral can encompass a memorial service, wake, viewing or a combination of the three. It's also an intimate experience: friends or family members might help wash and dress the body, build or decorate a casket, plan a memorial service or accompany the deceased to the burial site or crematory.

What tips can you offer for planning this type of burial?

When families come to see me about picking out an urn for their loved one's cremains, I first suggest they take a look around their home and see if they have something that the deceased person loved, or something that would represent them. If not, do they have a family member or friend who would be comfortable making an urn?

I highly encourage taking it to an individual level. A green burial can truly be a DIY project. Have everyone get involved. I love the idea of personalization. Paint or draw on the burial apparatus with a non-toxic implement. Bury your loved one on your own land if state and county rules permit. And consider leaving a living marker. This means planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers on or near the grave.

What regulations should be considered?

To locate specific laws regarding green burial in your state, contact the proper authorities. The policy varies and is not uniform throughout the United States, or other countries.

Locating a Funeral Home

Are more funeral homes and cemeteries converting to green burials?

Truthfully, funeral homes are a bit gun-shy when it comes to going green for many reasons. The trend is new and some funeral providers are not educated on the rules and regulations. The responsibility of advocating for this type of burial isn't always embraced for fear of financial loss. Funeral homes are quite conservative in making change. Some families don't ask for green options, therefore some providers are not aware there is a need. On and on…I do believe that ultimately, funeral homes and cemeteries will give the public what they want. After all, we are in this business to help people anyway we can during this very difficult period of their life

How can an earth-friendly funeral home be located?

The Internet is a great resource. As the economy sinks and unemployment rises, more people will be seeking green solutions, and more funeral homes will realize the importance of becoming earth-friendly. My hope, of course, is that the openness to natural burial is made for more than economic reasons.

What are some trends in the green burial industry

Coffins made from recycled paper products, cardboard, or even wicker that resemble a peapod and come in vibrant colors. More and more of these creations are handmade and biodegradable, and of course use no chemical glues or other toxic components. I also hear more praise for the simplicity of staying at home. Holding a ceremony somewhere dear to the deceased is becoming quite vogue. Green websites I often consult with observe that institutions and burial places will often have rules as to what is, or is not, permitted on their property. Green burial plans may clash with such directives.

Are green burials more affordable?

Fewer resources are used for a green burial, so yes, a green burial can be significantly less cash. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a traditional funeral is $6,500 plus cemetery expenses. Green burial is drastically lower.

Additional Information

What else would you like people to know about green burials?

The natural burial ground provides a number of benefits for the greater community including an enhancement of the urban green space network, development of multi-use recreational spaces and improvement of the ecological diversity of the area. Natural burial allows people to make one final act. To communicate, in death, a statement of their values about life.

What else would you like to share?

It can be important for mourners to have somewhere to go to remember their loved ones long after the funeral is over. Natural or living memorials can be wonderful alternatives to quarried headstones or marble mausoleums. Consider planting a tree or a bush that will carry on in honor of the deceased. Online memorials are also becoming increasingly popular.


LoveToKnow would like to thank Elizabeth Fournier for sharing her knowledge with those who are choosing green burial. To learn more, visit the resources section on her website, Cornerstone Funeral Services. There you find find an abundance of green burial information to help you with this very personal decision.

Choosing Green Burial