A green or natural cemetery (these terms are used interchangeably) prohibits chemical embalming of the body. There are no grave-liners or vaults, and only biodegradable burial containers such as a plain pine box, a wicker or cardboard casket, or a fabric shroud can be used.
While there is diligent care-taking of the property, there is no turf cover to mow and manicure, no intensive watering requirements. There are no attempts to control nature with pesticides and herbicides. Instead, a natural cemetery allows nature to take its course.
Rather than monuments or markers, grave sites are designated by GPS coordinates that provide information as to the precise location of a grave for cemetery records and for visitors.
When someone chooses to plant a memorial tree, shrub, or flowering plant, they must choose an indigenous species. A natural burial ground is committed to the restoration of native vegetation, thus encouraging birds and other natural wildlife to inhabit the area. Those who are laid to rest there become a part of the natural beauty and the ongoing cycle of life.
There are 3 levels of certification for a green cemetery through the Green Burial Council. These are Hybrid, Natural, and Conservation. The standards and certification requirements are explained in detail on their website here.
It is possible to issue a final statement of one’s concern for the environment by planning a simple, natural burial. What is done with one’s body after one is done with it can be your final act of environmental responsibility, the last thing you get a chance to ‘recycle’.
Whether you are driven by environmental concerns or a deep spiritual conviction to embrace the biblical mandate “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” green burial is clearly your best option to peacefully and harmoniously be reunited with the earth.
Natural State Burial Association:
where burial becomes earth’s final embrace
. . . peaceful, harmonious, and complete.