There are many “shades” of green possible when planning a green
funeral or natural burial, based on your preferences, available funeral home
services, cemetery capabilities, and local rules and regulations.
A green funeral incorporates environment-friendly options, and
may include any or all of the following: no embalming or embalming with
formaldehyde-free products; the use of sustainable biodegradable clothing,
shroud or casket; using recycled paper products; serving organic food (if food
may be served in a funeral home in your state); locally-grown organic flowers;
funeral guest carpooling; as well as a natural or green burial.
What is natural or green burial?
In a “purist” natural or green burial, the body is buried,
without embalming, in a natural setting. Any shroud or casket that is used must
be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material. Traditional standing
headstones are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as
grave markers. Some cemeteries use GPS to mark the locations of gravesites. A
“natural or green burial” may also simply mean burial without embalming, in a
biodegradable casket without a vault, when permitted by a cemetery.
What is a green cemetery?
A green cemetery is a burial site that does not permit vaults,
non-biodegradable caskets or embalming chemicals. It uses no herbicides,
pesticides or irrigation for maintenance of the cemetery grounds. Any material
used at a green cemetery must meet the goal of replenishing the earth. There
are cemeteries in the U.S. that accommodate both conventional burial practices
and burial without the use of a vault or outer burial container on their
natural or green cemeteries feature sustainable landscape design and natural
The first green burial in the modern sense took place in England
in 1993; by 2012, there were more than 250 green burial sites in operation in
the UK. In the United States, one of the first natural burial grounds was
opened in 1996 in western South Carolina. Some green cemeteries are established
as conservation areas in accordance with specific state laws.
is not a green cemetery in your area, you may still be able to have a green
funeral and possibly a burial in a traditional cemetery that incorporates many
green elements. The use of outer burial containers or
vaults is not required by federal or state law, but is required by many
cemeteries. Your local cemetery may have begun to offer green burial sections
that do not require vaults or may offer solutions that will allow the casket to
be in direct contact with the earth, while still fulfilling cemetery
requirements for an outer burial container. In many rural areas, vaults or
grave liners are usually not required.
Your NFDA funeral director can provide you assistance in
determining green or natural burial options in your community.
Green Business Practices
As with the concept of “green” in general, green in funeral
service means practicing environmental consciousness and being eco-friendly.
While many funeral homes are offering green funeral options, they are also
making an effort to incorporate green strategies into their business practices.
Some NFDA member funeral homes choose to participate in the NFDA Green Funeral Practices™
Certificate Program. Exclusive to qualifying NFDA members, this award program
recognizes exceptional NFDA funeral homes that have adopted and implemented
ethical, sustainable green funeral and business practices in order to become
more environmentally responsible to client families, employees, and their