Have You Considered a Green / Natural Burial?

by AngelaJohnson

Our final carbon footprint on earth is when our own body is buried. A traditional burial adds pollutants to the soil and the air (cremation). Consider a natural burial instead.

Green or natural burial is when your body is buried without embalming to allow it to recycle naturally.

Bodies may be buried in a biodegradable coffin or in a shroud, which will be in contact with the soil. The grave is dug shallow to allow microbial activity like that found in composting. Burials take place on private land and in any cemetery that allows burials without vaults.

If the body is buried in a natural cemetery, rocks or other natural markers are used to mark the grave, or trees, shrubs or flowers are planted. There is no irrigation, and no pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers are used.

What is Embalming and is it Required in the U.S.?

casket at funeral homeEmbalming is a way to temporarily preserve a corpse and make it suitable for public display at a funeral.

Embalming fluid is pumped into the body through an artery, which rehydrates the tissues.

Whether a body is embalmed or not, and regardless of the type of burial and materials used for a coffin and/or vault, the body will eventually decompose.

Embalming in the United States didn’t become widespread until Abraham Lincoln requested it during the Civil War. Because it took several weeks for dead union soldiers to be removed from battlefields and transported by train to the north, their bodies were badly decomposed by the time they reached their families. So dead soldiers were then embalmed in field hospitals.

Embalming is not required by law in any state in the U.S., but a funeral home is a private business and can require embalming if there is a delay making arrangements, even though refrigeration or dry ice can keep the body from decomposing. Not all funeral homes have refrigerated morgue facilities, but most hospitals do.

Embalming may be required if a body is to be shipped to another location for burial.


Read the Complete FTC Funeral Rule Document

Photo by cbb4104 on Flickr. 

What is Green / Natural Burial?

natural burial groundGreen (or natural) burial means the body is not embalmed or cremated. The body is placed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud and buried so it can decompose and become part of the earth. Shallow graves are dug by hand.

What is a Green Cemetery?

Green cemeteries are not watered, mowed, or  fertilized, and no pesticides or herbicides are used. A green cemetery conserves native habitats and resources.

Graves are usually marked with a a boulder, field stones flush to the ground. a living object such as a tree or wildflowers, or a GPS tag. No artificial flowers, balloons or personal objects are left.

There are some natural burial grounds located throughout the United Sates, and with the interest in green funerals rising, more states are approving natural burials.

There are also hybrid cemeteries that offer both traditional burials and green ones.  



Refuse embalming. It is not required by law for funerals, and no cemetery should require it for burial.

Select a wood casket, a cardboard box, or a shroud for burial. There are no laws requiring particular types of caskets. If the funeral director or cemetery owner objects, stand firm. The law is on your side.

Don’t use a concrete vault. If the cemetery won’t allow a burial without a vault, pick a concrete grave box that has an open bottom to let the body come in contact with the earth. Or, invert a concrete grave liner and use the lid for something else. Vaults are only used to keep the ground from shifting.

Photo of Natural Burial Park, Cedar Creek, Texas.
Photo © 2011 Larry D. Moore on Wikipedia .

A Homemade Coffin for a Burial

A Homemade Coffin for a Burial
A Homemade Coffin for a Burial

Biodegradable Coffins and Shrouds

Handmade CoffinBiodegradable coffins or green caskets will not harm the environment and are less expensive than a traditional coffin. The entire coffin is natural, including the hardware and lining.

Biodegradable coffins can be made from:

~ Fair-trade-certified bamboo

~ Willow

~ Banana Leaf

~ Jute

~ Pine

~ Sea grass

~ Formaldehyde-free plywood

~ Cane

~ Pineapple Leaf

~ Wool

~ Cotton

~ Recycled Paper

~ Cardboard

~ Bamboo


A coffin is not required for a green burial and many people choose to use a shroud. You can make a shroud yourself out of biodegradable material, or purchase one already made.

Shrouds or casket linings should be made from unbleached cotton, fruit or vegetable fibers, flax, bamboo, hand woven silk, or other materials that are biodegradable.

For more information, click on the links below: 

 Green Burial Shrouds

 Biodegradable Coffins - U.K. 

The Old Pine Box 

Handmade Caskets


About the photo: Joyce Mitchell, a home funeral advocate in Utah, says, "I built this casket originally so I could see if it is really as easy as they say. It is!" She keeps two on hand in case of a sudden need for a home funeral.  Original photo by Joyce Mitchell, posted by Undertaken With Love on Flickr.


A Grave in Eloise Woods Community Natural Burial Park, Cedar Creek, Texas. U.S.

A Natural Burial Grave
A Natural Burial Grave

Greenhaven Woodland Burial Ground - U.K.

Eco-Friendly Burial Products

Bamboo Lattice Coffin (Natural Woven Green Burial Basket Casket) - Size 71" x 21"

This elegantly constructed coffin consists of two layers of woven bamboo to give it its distinctive pattern. (All caskets ship ground delivery. Please review shipping map for de...

Only $1399.0

View on Amazon

Bios Urn Memorial Funeral Cremation Urn for Humans. Passing becomes a transformation as your belo...

Back to nature... The "Bios Memorial Urn for Ashes" is the first biodegradable urn designed to transform your beloved into a living tree after life. How to plant Bios Urn? The B...

Only $97.0

View on Amazon

28" Elegant Eco-friendly Pet Caskets-Wood Finish

* Whether your pets burial is in the backyard or a cemetery, pet owners that invest in a casket when their pet passes on find comfort in knowing their pet is safe and secure in ...

View on Amazon

A Woodlands Burial

What is Cremation and is it Better for the Environment?

cremation urnCremation uses intense heat to reduce a corpse to ashes and bone fragments. The cremation process can take two to four hours. 

When death happens away from home, the cost of shipping cremated remains is much less expensive than the cost for shipping a body.


Cremation does impact the environment since it burns fossil fuels and releases pollutants into the air.   Modern cremation units do use less energy than older crematoriums and have air-scrubbing capabilities to reduce the pollutants going into the air.

A casket isn't required for a cremation, but most crematoriums require the body be inside a combustible container. Using an unlined container without chipboard and plastics will help reduce air pollution.


All funeral homes in the U.S. are required to list a price for an “Immediate Cremation,” which is a cremation without any additional services such as a viewing at the funeral home. You can plan a memorial service at a later date and at any location with or without the funeral director.

There’s no state law in the U.S. that says a body must be embalmed before it is cremated. However, some states require that a body be buried, cremated, embalmed, or refrigerated within a certain amount of time. 


Cremated remains are sterile so there is no health hazard.

Bury the remains in a cemetery or on private property.

Keep the remains in an urn or other container, perhaps in a container that belonged to the deceased.

Don't ask, don't tell: some people scatter remains over an area that was significant to the deceased. If you scatter the remains in a public place like a park or beach, you may want to wait until you’re alone with no spectators just in case someone objects. There are some restrictions on scattering remains over water.  Read this document for further information. 


Photo by originalpozer on Flickr. 

How Will You Be Buried?

Having a Home Funeral

casket with quiltYears ago, visitations and wakes were held in peoples' homes. Home funerals are becoming a popular choice again as more people want their loved ones to die at home.

Home funerals save money for families and gives them more control over decisions.  Often, the family may feel pressure to make decisions in a hurry, and often over-spend.  And holding a visitation in a funeral home can be impersonal and stressful.

If you're interested in a home funeral, you must make plans prior to death and will probably need to educate local authorities on your rights. 


Each state has different rules regarding home funerals.

You are not required to purchase a coffin from a funeral home.  If you choose to have a natural or green burial, you can even make your own, or use a shroud.

No state law requires routine embalming for every death. (see the funeral rule)  

If a person dies at a hospital or nursing home, you must make arrangements PRIOR to death or the body will be taken to a morgue and then a funeral provider.


If you’d like to read about home funerals, click on any or all of the links below.

National Home Funeral Alliance. 

Embracing the End-of-Life Experience


Photo by roger_mommaerts on Flickr.

The Natural End Map

The Natural End Map guides you to natural funeral service providers, end-of-life assistants, cemeteries, and others that offer natural funeral and burial services in the United States.


Join Wizzley - An Online Publishing Community

~~ Write articles

~~ Inspire Readers

~~ Make money

If you'd like to write articles on Wizzley, you can use my referral link below to sign up - there's no charge.  And although I receive a small compensation when you join, Wizzley does not deduct anything from your future earnings.  There are many Wizzley tutorials here to help you understand the site.

Would you like to write at Wizzley?  Click here to join.



Updated: 12/09/2015, AngelaJohnson
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
frankbeswick on 10/24/2014

My personal preferences are for green burial, and I put forward excarnation out of curiosity about what the response would be.

AngelaJohnson on 10/24/2014

CountrySunshine - your husband was ahead of his time. I can understand why you buried him in a traditional way, though, because green burials have just recently become popular again and you weren't aware it was an option.

AngelaJohnson on 10/24/2014

frankbeswick - I think if the platforms were built with steel poles, rats couldn't climb up. This may be a good option when there isn't much open ground to bury bodies, and there wouldn't be fire (cremation) to pollute the air.

But I prefer the idea of bodies buried into the earth to decompose; with grass, plants or trees growing on top.

frankbeswick on 10/24/2014

One form of burial not allowed at the moment is excarnation. This was practised in ancient Britain, archaeologists believe, when bodies were placed on platforms for the birds to eat the flesh, before the bones were interred. The Parsees of India and Iran still practise this in towers of silence. It is a very green form of burial, but I imagine that rats would be attracted along with birds, though the towers of silence are quite high. As Parsees see fire as sacred, they will not corrupt the sacred flame by cremation. What are people's thoughts on this practice?

CountrySunshine on 10/24/2014

My husband always wanted me to throw him in old feed sacks, and bury him either under the flag pole or in the pasture. Instead, I buried him at DFW National Cemetery. I wasn't aware of green burials, and now see that I could have followed his wishes! I actually like this idea, and intend to research it more fully.

DerdriuMarriner on 09/26/2014

burntchestnut, Thank you for spotlighting green burial alternatives. It's amazing what's available via Amazon: "Bamboo Lattice Coffin"! My goodness!
I had a bit of a chuckle over Joyce Mitchell -- after learning how easy it is to make homemade coffins -- deciding to keep "two on hand in case of a sudden need for a home funeral."
Through genealogical research, I've become comfortable in cemeteries. Sometimes there is peace, for the living, in having that hallowed spot attesting that loved ones once graced the earth.
I like the idea, mentioned below by frankbeswick, of monks being buried in orchards. A living tree, for me as an arborist, is a lovely marker.

Telesto on 09/15/2014

I honestly don't see the point of paying thousands for something that is going to be buried or burnedm. I have planted trees for my parents and that'll do me too.

VioletteRose on 09/15/2014

Electrical cremation seems to be an option for many, where no wood is required.

frankbeswick on 09/15/2014

Cremation makes perfect sense, especially in crowded places such as London. I prefer that ashes should be spread on the soil, as I believe that burial customs should respect the cycle of nature and contribute to the Earth.However, we need to move towards less ecologically costly coffins. cutting down a tree simply to burn or bury the wood is ecologically wasteful. A simple wicker container or a shroud is enough to send into the crematorium or the Earth.

Telesto on 09/14/2014

Cremation for me. We have a problem with a lack of burial space in London, but I prefer the thought of cremation anyway. And once I have popped my clogs, there will be no having a little peek. Well done you for highlighting this burntchestnut.

You might also like

Lovely Crocus Flowers Bloom Both Spring and Fall

The crocus plant is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring. But ...

How to Find Antlers That Deer Shed Each Year

Male deer shed their antlers every year and later grow new ones. You can fin...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...