A Guide to Green Burial & Green Funerals

Everything you need to know about green burial and eco-friendly funeral arrangements

Last updated: 17 July 2019

What is green burial?

Green burial is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional vault burial and cremation. Also known as natural burial, green burial is growing in popularity in the U.S.

Green burial does not use concrete-lined vaults or synthetic grave liners. The person is laid to rest in a biodegradable casket or shroud, made from natural or reclaimed materials.

Natural burial does not typically include embalming, as the chemicals used in embalming could enter the ground and damage the natural surroundings.

Green cemeteries and natural burial grounds

Green burial takes place in a designated green cemetery or natural burial ground. Green burial sites are often unrecognizable compared to traditional graveyards or cemeteries, as they are intended to look as close to the natural landscape as possible.

The graves in a green cemetery are often not marked with a headstone; instead they will be identified by a tree or flowers and often become indistinguishable from the woodland.

Some natural burial sites have a map, so that the bereaved may visit the grave of their loved one. Other green cemeteries do not have maps to individual graves, but the bereaved may consider the whole woodland as a memorial to their loved one.

If you would prefer to visit the exact location of your loved one’s final resting place, you may want to carefully consider if green burial is the right choice for you and your family.

Green funerals

The key selling point for green burials is that they are more eco-friendly than other funeral options, such as traditional burial or cremation.

Some people choose green burial for their loved one as part of a green funeral, in which all elements of the funeral service are designed to minimize any impact on nature. Some funeral homes can provide eco-friendly funeral transport, such as hybrid hearses, for a green funeral.

Caskets and coffins for green burial

Eco coffins and caskets used in green burials are designed to be environmentally friendly and easily decompose in the ground. They are usually made from:

  • Cardboard (sometimes recycled)
  • Banana leaf
  • Wicker
  • Bamboo
  • Willow

You may also have the option of using a shroud instead of a casket. Shrouds are lengths of cloth used to wrap a person in preparation for their burial. They are commonly made from:

  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Linen
  • Bamboo fiber

Be aware that different green cemeteries and natural burial grounds will have varying rules about what type of casket or shroud you can use.

If you are considering a natural burial or green funeral for your loved one, speak to your chosen funeral home about your requirements.