The green movement is growing. In 2006, the first green provider was officially certified by the Green Burial Council (GBC). In 2016, there were around 350 green funeral providers.
And more families are expressing interest, too. A study conducted by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) in 2015 found that “64 percent of adults 40+ said they would be interested in green funeral options, compared with 43 percent in 2010.”
As families become interested in green burials, it’s important to understand their options and what they mean. Let’s look at the different ways a cemetery is considered green.
The Green Burial Council Certifications for Green Cemeteries
The GBC certifies green cemeteries in three categories. Green cemeteries can be either hybrid burial grounds, natural burial grounds, or conservation burial grounds.
Hybrid Burial Grounds
Hybrid burial grounds can be regular cemeteries. However, a hybrid burial ground must offer the option for burial without “the need of a vault (partial, inverted or otherwise), a vault lid, concrete box, slab or partitioned liner” per the GBC criteria for certifications.
Hybrid burial grounds don’t have any embalming requirements. These green cemeteries also must allow the use of burial shrouds or other green funeral caskets.
Natural Burial Grounds
A natural burial ground has a lot more requirements than the hybrid green cemeteries. In addition to the requirements above, a natural burial ground prohibits any outer burial containers. All burial materials have to be made from natural materials that degrade over time. Bodies buried in a natural burial ground must also be embalmed with natural, eco-friendly chemicals only.
On top of that, the natural burial ground is required to have a pesticide-free pest management system. The GBC also states that the cemetery has to “be designed, operated and maintained to produce a naturalistic appearance, based on [the] use of plants and materials native to the region, and patterns of landscape derived from and compatible with regional ecosystems.”
Natural burial grounds also limit the types, sizes, and visibility of memorial markers in order to preserve the natural landscape.
Conservation Burial Grounds
Conservation burial grounds are among the greenest options out there. They meet all the above criteria set for hybrid and natural burial grounds. In addition, these green cemeteries practice land conservation in a way that’s “contiguous to, or in a position to augment the conservation goals of an ecologically significant park, wildlife corridor, critical habitat area, or permanently protected open space…”
Conservation burial grounds must also be owned by a government or non-profit agency.
Click here to see the GBC’s full list of requirements for each type of cemetery.