Green Burials and the Environment

Long standing traditions often dictate the manner disposal after death. Formal burials require the body to be embalmed. This influx of chemicals, intended to preserve the body, takes its toll on the earth. In an age where we need to be more mindful of the health of our planet, it makes sense to find a better alternative. Donation and cremation are some less damaging options. Green burials, however, allow for traditional burial rituals in an earth friendly way.


Embalming fluid is made up of formaldehyde, methanol and glutaraldehyde. These, and other ingredients, are injected into the veins of the deceased individual. The main purpose of this solution is to delay decomposition long enough for loved ones to view the body at a funeral. It can also be used to preserve specimens for research purposes.  Considering the dense population of the planet at this time, about 5 million gallons of these chemicals are used on an annual basis. These chemicals eventually seep into, and contaminate, the soil.

Traditional Coffins

The casing used for a common burial is a sturdy coffin. These vary in material composition. Some are wood, while others are made of steel or fiberglass. This also adds to the waste in our land. Some materials leak chemicals over time in the ground. Others completely resist decomposition. Human remains rarely return to the earth in a timely manner. The chemicals and coffin aim to preserve the body for a significant amount of time.

Going Green 

The goal of a green burial is to help maintain a more sustainable planet. Disposal of human remains in a green cemetery is done with the intention of quick decomposition. The body becomes part of the soil in a natural way, instead of having a chemical preservation. Traditional coffins are bypassed and replaced with biodegradable options. Cardboard and bamboo are among the options. Some families choose to use a shroud in place of a box type casing. The burial place can be marked with a granite slab or even a tree.

The Location

Natural burials must be done around some legal restrictions. These, however, are not as complicated as one might imagine. They need to be a certain distance outside of city limits. Private land can be used, which opens up the idea of burying families on their own property. Some of these cemeteries are specifically designed to exist as a preserve where loved ones of the deceased can visit and walk on nature trails.  These burial sites do not follow rigid organization rules. Families often pick their own burial site and participate in digging the hole. This participation in the ritual gives many people closure.


Concerns of diseases leaking into groundwater have been raised. These fears should be put to rest, however. Natural decomposition works to inhibit this danger. Otherwise, diseases from the past would constantly be haunting us. The bacteria in the ground breaks down disease and other dangerous items into the most basic form. The remaining elements are harmless. The natural breakdown of the remains acts as a safety against the spread of disease.

Green burial locations are becoming more common in many areas around the world. The severe environmental results of embalming are becoming well-known. Attempts to popularize this more natural approach have proved successful. Many individuals find the entire experience a more satisfying one. Returning a body to the soil in a natural way is more in-line with early burial practices and contributes to the health of our planet.


What Do You Think?

About Eva Willis

Eva is not your average stay at home mom. She has a master’s degree in biochemistry and has a wealth of experience in anthropology. When she had her twins, she decided to put her career on hold, and has never regretted it for a minute. Her boys, now four years old, are her pride, and joy. To put her many talents to good use, Eva often does quite a bit of writing online. She has learned the art of making science come alive and breaking up big topics into to bite-sized pieces. Watching her boys grow up is one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. She is eagerly looking forward to teaching them about the beautiful world around us, but until they are old enough to understand, she is thrilled to share her wealth of knowledge online.

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