Many people who are contemplating a green, or natural, burial wonder about green burial rules and regulations. Green burial is a set of body preparation, funeral, and burial practices that allow a body to decompose naturally in a site specifically set aside for this type of grave. Body preparation is free of toxic chemicals, caskets are biodegradable, and no cement vault stands between the deceased and the natural environment. Green burial is legal, but there are rules and regulations for dealing with human remains that do have to be followed.
Who can Prepare a Body for Green Burial?
In general, any individual who has been given Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney over another person can usually take on the role of funeral director in making final arrangements and How to Plan a Funeral planning a funeral. This person can usually also complete any required documentation, and transport the body in any type of vehicle to the place where the body will be prepared and the final resting place. Not all states have this provision in their laws, so it's a good idea to check with the Funeral Consumers Alliance list of states that recognize the decisions of a designated agent after a person's death.
One place to avoid in the search for green burial information is the National Funeral Directors Association. Funeral homes and funeral directors make lots of money from elaborate funerals, metal caskets, and concrete burial containers. The simplicity and inexpensiveness of green burial means less money for the average funeral home and that is alarming for those in the funeral business.
Green Burial Legal Myths
Only a funeral director is allowed to prepare a body for burial.
This is wrong. More people are choosing to care for their deceased loved ones at home, and in most U.S. states, this is a perfectly legal option. However, the FCA notes that seven states currently require a funeral director to oversee. These states are:
- New York
While a home funeral may not be an option in these states, the funeral homes in them may offer some green burial options, so it's worth checking with a few different local funeral homes.
The law requires all bodies to be embalmed Embalming used to be promoted as a way to keep down the risk of getting any kind of infectious disease from human remains. In some places, outdated laws require embalming for the remains of those who died from a potentially contagious disease, but embalming is usually not a legal requirement. A few states require a body to be embalmed if it is transported across state lines. These states are:
- New Jersey
In green burials, bodies are not embalmed due to the toxic chemicals involved. Embalming also interferes with the natural process of decomposition and the chemicals involved would contaminate the gravesite, killing existing plant life and preventing any new plants from growing.
It's illegal to bury a body without a concrete vault or container Concrete vaults and burial containers are not a legal requirement. These are used by cemeteries to prevent any settling of the ground above a grave. Vaults and containers are strictly a cosmetic issue, although mounding the earth on top of a green grave site prevents all but the most subtle settling.
The Green Burial Council certifies green cemeteries, and its standards require green cemeteries to use only containers that are biodegradable, and most artificial landscaping is discouraged. Many people who choose green burial decide on a casket that they How to Build a Coffin build themselves, or they purchase a simple wooden one from a local woodworker.
Green Burial Rules and Regulations
Green burial may be an unconventional choice for a funeral and burial, but it is not illegal. Groups like the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Center for Green Burial are committed to helping grieving families know their rights in planning for their loved one's memorial service and internment. For those interested in planning a green burial, knowing state and local laws can prevent stressful legal problems during an already stressful time.