Americans are becoming more aware of green burial as a legitimate burial option, but there are still relatively few places where green burials are allowed in the United States. Check out these profiles for three established sites and get an idea of what to expect regarding regulations and costs.
South Carolina: Ramsey Creek Preserve
Ramsey Creek preserve, established in 1998 and located north of Atlanta and south of Greenville, is said to be one of the first green burial sites in the United States. Ramsey Creek is protected from future development by a conservation easement, a permanent usage restriction on the deed of a piece of land. The right to enforce this usage restriction has been granted to Upstate Forever, a South Carolina land trust that is dedicated to the protection of certain natural areas in South Carolina.
The Ramsey Creek preserve is managed by Memorial Ecosystems, and they provide a convenient list of pricing options on their website. A traditional natural burial is listed as costing between $2,500 and $3,500, and this price does include a native stone marker and native plants to be planted on the gravesite after the burial. This replanting helps restore native plant species to the area, and also to help eliminate invasive existing species. It is important to note that engraving the stone grave marker can cost between $85 and $200.
Ramsey Creek does offer pre-need payment plans for gravesites, and interestingly also offers sites for burying pets who have died. Burial of cats and small dogs costs $200, and it costs $50 to bury cremated pet remains. For more information about Ramsey Creek or to buy a grave site within the preserve, contact the site steward by calling 864-647-7798.
California: Forever Fernwood
Forever Fernwood is a natural burial ground located north of San Francisco in Marin County, California. The burial ground is adjacent to a conventional cemetery in an area that's become overgrown with invasive plant species. Each burial is a chance to clear the gravesite of these plants and replant grasses and wildflowers that are native to the area.
Bodies can be buried in the natural area at Fernwood in wooden caskets, cardboard coffins, or a simple burial shroud. Small stone markers are allowed, but the GPS coordinates of each grave are recorded to allow for easy location of grave sites for visitors. To find out more about natural burial sites at Fernwood, call 415-383-7100.
Ohio: Foxfield Preserve
Foxfield Preserve is unique in that it is owned and operated by a non-profit organization, The Wilderness Center. Located near Wilmot, Ohio, Foxfield is intended to be both a wildlife refuge and a nature preserve, in addition to being Ohio's first natural burial ground.
As in all natural burial grounds, bodies are buried in biodegradable caskets or shrouds, and are not allowed to be embalmed before burial. The embalming process uses toxic chemicals that would harm the plants and wildlife around the burial site, which is contrary to the preserve's mission of restoring the prairie and forests that used to make up the landscape of Foxfield. For mor information, e-mail the Foxfield Preserve site steward at Jennifer@wildernesscenter.org, or call 330-763-1331.
Green Burial Sites in the United States
To find other currently operating green burial grounds, visit the Green Burial Council. There you can find information on approved funeral directors, cemeteries, and green burial products.