Planning a Green Funeral

The prospect of a traditional funeral presents some challenges to the environmentally conscious. Policygenius outlines these challenges as it points out that funerals in the United States alone consume 30 million feet of wood for caskets. Add to this the 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid and 1.6 million tons of concrete used in traditional services, and you have a recipe for high carbon dioxide emissions.

There is another option – a green burial that takes Mother Nature into account. Let’s explore green funerals and why they may be a good option for the dearly departed.

Planning a Green Funeral

What Is a Green Funeral?

Also known as natural burial, a green funeral is any that factors environmental sustainability into the burial process. The Funeral Consumers Alliance points out that this typically means the deceased isn’t embalmed or cremated. Instead, they’re interred in a biodegradable casket or similar construct, with no concrete burial vaults used. The idea is to return the deceased’s body to nature without leaving a human impact on the ground in which they’re interred. Hollywood Forever’s Ancestral Forest Project is a good example, as it offers green burial without the use of concrete, embalming fluids, or complex burial vaults.

Interest in green funerals has risen through the 2020s, as data from the National Funeral Directors Association (NDFA) highlights. Its “2023 Consumer Awareness and Preferences Report” shows that 60% of people are interested in exploring green burial options.

Environmental benefits seem to be the major driver behind increasing interest in the options a green cemetery offers. But some point toward the lower costs (driven by less use of steel and concrete) as another significant factor. Add to this the fact that many see a spiritual significance associated with green burial. The body is returned directly to nature, with limited manufactured barriers, allowing the deceased to return to the earth without obstruction.

A Brief Guide to Conducting a Green Funeral

If a green funeral interests you, it’s helpful to understand the process for conducting such a ceremony. These steps serve as a checklist to follow.

Step 1 – Find an Appropriate Supplier

One of the most interesting things about green funerals is that there are several ways to approach the concept. On the most basic level, suppliers offer burials using a green casket or cloth shroud. The burial uses no form of embalming or cremation and features no concrete or steel, typically used to fabricate burial vaults.

It’s possible to take things a step further. For instance, some funeral companies allow you to plant a tree at the burial site, allowing the deceased’s body to power the growth of a new natural element. The tree can also serve as a “headstone.” Consider what you wish to achieve, economically and environmentally, from the funeral when making your choice.

Step 2 – Select a Burial Ground

Some cemeteries allow natural burials, whereas others insist on traditional burial methods. This can be a challenge for those who wish to be interred alongside family on a site that only allows traditional funerals. It’s also worth pointing out that burial vaults often serve a practical purpose. They prevent the ground from sinking under the weight of continued footfall or the machinery used for maintenance, making a cemetery’s insistence on creating a vault understandable.

As such, consider looking for hybrid or fully green cemeteries. Each has designated areas for green funerals, with the latter entirely dedicated to them.

Step 3 – Care and Handling of the Deceased

Since embalming is rarely used in green funerals, you may have to find alternative methods to preserve the deceased before burial. A company that offers natural burial services will usually point you toward these alternatives. If that isn’t the case, keeping the body cool using refrigeration methods, such as dry ice and ice packs, is often preferred.

Step 4 – Arrange an Appropriate Burial Container

You have several options in terms of burial containers in a green funeral. Traditionalists may prefer to use a casket, in which case there are suppliers of softwood caskets that use no steel. An appropriate shroud also works, with the added benefit of lower cost. In some cases, green funerals use cardboard boxes as burial containers, with the same material used if you choose cremation.

Discover More About Green Funerals and Tree Burials with Hollywood Forever

Founded over 120 years ago, Hollywood Forever has witnessed (and adapted to) many changes in the funeral industry. The recent rise of green burials is one of those changes. To provide the best range of internment services to clients, the company has applied for and received certification as a Hybrid Cemetery from the Green Burial Council.

As a result, Hollywood Forever offers green and tree burial services as part of its Ancestral Forest Project. You have the opportunity to choose from one of the hundreds of available plots where your body will be buried and a tree planted to mark your passing. Hollywood Forever also carries out a special tree-planting ceremony designed to celebrate the life of your loved one. If you’d like to learn more, you can find information about tree burial and begin making arrangements on the Hollywood Forever website.


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