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What exactly does it mean to be green?

by | Aug 26, 2016 | Funeral Profession

Plants in a planter

There is no doubt that more people are choosing environmentally friendly funerals now more than ever, but what exactly does that mean?

While there are all-encompassing terms like “green burial” or “eco burial,” there actually are a lot of different options for families that want to make a lesser impact on the environment, and some are greener than others.

Biodegradable Caskets/Natural Burial

If you want to have a send-off that closely resembles traditional burial without leaving behind a huge carbon footprint, have no fear. These days, you can be buried in caskets that are made to naturally degrade in the soil rather than stay intact indefinitely.

Biodegradable caskets come in a variety of different materials and styles:

  • Willow
  • Bamboo
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Seagrass

Many people who choose biodegradable caskets also choose a natural burial, which simply means that no chemicals are used to preserve the body. This is to encourage natural decomposition rather than inhibit it.

Some who choose a natural burial don’t choose a casket at all and opt instead for a simple cotton or silk shroud to help further allow natural decomposition.

Conservation Burial

Some families and individuals take natural burials a step further and try to use their burial to help the environment rather than just aiming not to hurt it. There are certain sites dedicated to these burials, where the main purpose of the land is not for grave markings or vaults but instead to be used by future generations for any number of purposes that support the natural environment or even enhance it.

Human Composting

Human composting might sound a bit far-fetched, but it’s possible that this process will someday be another option that aims to conserve and contribute to the environment rather than just avoid negative effects.

Though human composting isn’t possible or legal yet, it’s just around the corner — the Urban Death Project aims to have the world’s first human composting facility built in Seattle by 2022. Human composting would allow people to provide their remains to create nutrient-rich soil for use in gardens and parks.


The processes of promession and ecoLation™, which involves freezing a body in liquid nitrogen and then breaking it down, are just like human composting in that they aren’t yet legal. But if made legal, it would provide another environmentally-friendly option for families.

The materials produced by these processes have a lot of the same options as cremation — they can be saved in an urn, or released back into the soil. If released into the soil, they would provide nutrition to it, unlike regular cremation ashes.

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Alkaline hydrolysis is already legal in 13 U.S. states, and is viewed as an eco-friendlier option than cremation, which uses enough fuel to fill two SUV tanks. One of the main reasons that people chose cremation in the first place was because it was better for the environment than traditional burial, but now many are looking for an even better option.

Alkaline hydrolysis, which is the process of dissolving bodies in an alkaline solution, is one option that many families are beginning to consider. Though it uses a lot of water, it is believed to have a much lesser impact on the environment than cremation but still results in ashes that families can keep in a memorial urn or scatter.

Green Urns

Cremation has taken over as the most common funeral service in both America and Canada, so it’s no surprise that there also is a market for using ashes in ways that benefit the environment.

These days, you can have your ashes mixed in with a pod that contains nutritious soil and a tree seed so that you can be planted. You also can choose to incorporate your ashes in a memorial reef, which provides a habitat for marine life and promotes the growth of natural coral reefs.

Be the Go-To Green Funeral Provider in Your Community

Do you want to offer more green services for your families? Find out how in this blog of resources for getting started.


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