Green Burial: An affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative death care option

Natural Burial Explained

What is a green burial or a natural burial?

A natural burial, or green burial, focuses on an environmentally sustainable and organic way to conduct the disposition of a deceased body.  The deceased is not embalmed, and the body is interred in the ground, using only a biodegradable coffin or shroud.   The deceased is buried directly into the earth, without a concrete burial vault or any metal parts on the coffin.

The aim is to allow the body to naturally decompose and return to the soil, as in the phrase so commonly used around death of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Natural burialWhy Opt for a natural burial?

Green funerals have been around for some time.  Indeed, what we know as a traditional American Funeral, was closer to being a natural burial in the mid-19th century, when undertakers built wooden coffins, and interment was direct into the earth.

Some faiths practice only natural burial, such as Muslims and Jews, where beliefs mandate a natural, organic approach to death care.

Natural burial is experiencing something of a revival today.  It is gaining more attention in states with greater awareness and undertaking to be more sustainable and protect our planet and its resources.

There is also a growing interest in home funerals or family-led funerals.  Read more about conducting a DIY Funeral.

The main reasons people consider a green burial are:

  • Simplicity
  • Cost
  • Conserving natural resources & natural areas
  • Eliminating exposure to hazardous chemicals

Let’s explore these reasons in a little more detail.

The Simplicity of a Natural Burial

Those who opt for a natural burial often seek a simpler, more holistic approach to death care.  They want simple funeral arrangements that have minimal intervention on the body and provide a lasting green impact on the planet.

There are options for the deceased to be buried with a seedling, allowing a tree to grow from the remains of someone who passed.  This does seem a wonderful legacy to re-oxygenate our planet and have a long-term memorial arboretum.

Cost – Is Natural Burial cheaper?

According to the NFDA 2022 Cremation & Burial report, a typical traditional funeral, including casket and embalming, costs $7,848, and this is without a cemetery plot fee.  Items such as embalming, a casket, a burial vault, and a plot in perpetuity in a designated cemetery are all costly.

This is where a natural burial is much less expensive as costs such as embalming, a steel casket, and a burial vault are not required.

A Green Funeral / Natural Burial is likely to cost in the region of $1,000 to $4,000. However, it can cost less if the family handles all the arrangements to transfer the deceased directly to the green burial site for interment.

Committing your body to Conserve natural resources & natural areas

Natural Conservation Burial SiteEvery year the U.S. buries 17,000 tons of steel and copper in vaults, 90,000 tons in caskets, 30 million board feet of hardwood, and 1.6 million tons of concrete.  A natural burial is not as demanding on our resources as fewer resources are consumed. 

Cremation, which has become more popular over the last decade, requires the resource of gas, so although sometimes considered more environmentally friendly, it is still consuming a natural resource.

Green burial also helps to conserve our natural areas and even creates new natural forests and meadows.

Visit our post on Why Should You Consider a Green Funeral.

Opting to Eliminate exposure to hazardous chemicals

Formaldehyde which is used in embalming fluid, is a hazardous chemical.  It is a known respiratory irritant and carcinogen.  Aside from embalming fluid absorbing into our planet as a body decomposes, it is not safe to expose funeral home workers and morticians to this hazardous substance routinely.

Can a natural burial be affordable?

Yes, green burial or natural burial is significantly more affordable than a traditional funeral.  The need for the embalming process, an expensive casket, and a burial vault are all eliminated.

The costs for a simple cardboard container to hold the deceased, a simple pine coffin, or a muslin shroud are way less than a steel or copper casket.

Some natural burial sites offer interment at very affordable prices.  It is fair to say that it is possible to conduct a simple, natural burial for as little as $500 – $1,500.

Check out our Green Burial Helpline numbers at the bottom of this page if you need to speak to a local green burial expert.

How do I choose a green burial site?

You need to consider certain things if you are seeking a green burial site.  Do you want a bespoke natural cemetery? Or a specially-designated ‘green’ section within a conventional cemetery.  This is what is known as a ‘hybrid’ green burial cemetery.

More conventional cemeteries are adding green burial sections to cater to the demand for a natural burial.

Some of these cemeteries may still have plot fees that are considered more expensive than a conservation natural burial ground, as they still have costs associated with cemetery ground maintenance.

If you are interested in a ‘wild’ conservation area burial site, then you need to be more selective in which site you choose.

Click here for a list of all green burial cemeteries in the U.S.

What if there is no green burial cemetery near me?

You can consider making a burial in a cemetery greener by choosing not to have embalming performed and using a biodegradable casket.  If the cemetery allows it, you can choose not to use a concrete burial vault.

If the family owns rural land, you can consider a home burial.  Most states allow natural burial on private property.  Each county has its own zoning requirements, so you must apply for the correct permit.

Just remember that unless you have established a protected family cemetery on the land if the land use should change, the remains could become inaccessible or disturbed.

Do I need a funeral director?  And, how do I choose a funeral company for a green burial?

In most states, you do not legally need to employ a funeral director.  It is just a convention that we do.  10 states have legislation that stipulates only a funeral director can transport the deceased and obtain the necessary permits and death certificates.

Suppose you have decided on a natural burial for a family member in the 40 states where you do not legally have to use the services of a funeral director. In that case, you can conduct a family-led funeral and transfer the deceased to the natural burial ground for interment.

Most funeral homes can assist you with a green burial option if this is what you choose.  Several funeral companies are specialized in offering natural burial options.

How do I choose a receptacle for a natural burial?

Green Burial ContainerYou need to choose a biodegradable container.  This can range from a plain wooden coffin, reinforced cardboard container, or wicker basket to a simple muslin shroud.  It is all about what is right for your loved one and family.

A wooden coffin will likely cost more but is easier to transport safely.  Reinforced cardboard containers can be purchased at a low cost and can be hand-decorated with messages by family and friends before being interred at a burial site.

Shrouds offer very limited support for transferring the deceased to a cemetery but have the most minimal resistance as a biodegradable barrier.

What kind of memorial marker can be erected in a green burial cemetery?

This depends on the burial site.  If it is a hybrid green cemetery, you may be able to erect a conventional grave marker.  The conservation of natural burial sites aims to minimize the impact on the natural terrain.  Therefore, markers are typically only simple natural rocks or native plants.

Some green burial sites will offer plaques that sit flush with the ground.  Most natural burial sites offer grave locations recorded by GPS so that you have a permanent ‘marker’ of the gravesite location.

What does a natural burial cost?

The cost of a natural burial varies by region and what type of burial site you opt for.  Generally, a green burial for a body will range from $1,000 to $4,000.  Interment of cremated remains in a natural burial site will likely cost between $200 and $1,000.

Although a natural burial can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of a traditional burial, some funeral home charges for a green burial can seem expensive.

A funeral home will use a simple pine casket that they will likely mark up.  You can purchase or make your own container, as the funeral home must accept any ‘appropriate’ container you provide. This can make a significant saving on the cost of the burial.

A natural burial is a very simplistic and humanist approach to death care.  Many families who opt for a natural burial feel strongly about being in control of the process, and the ritual, of death care.

A green burial can often be arranged as an inexpensive option for direct burial.

California Green Burial Helpline (415) 903-5131

Texas Green Burial Helpline (877) 354-2102

Florida Green Burial Helpline (833) 402-9077

New York Green Burial Helpline (718) 540-8819

Pennsylvania Green Burial Helpline (717) 220-8855

How to arrange a green burial in Atlanta, GA for $1,895

Green burial Atlanta GeorgiaAre you considering a greener alternative for your end-of-life wishes?  It seems more of us are now engaged with the environment and are looking for eco-friendlier options in many life choices.  This article can explain how to arrange a green burial in Atlanta.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), a recent survey indicated that 54% of Americans would consider a green funeral.  By all accounts, there has been a shift in funeral trends over the last decade.  A move away from expensive, traditional funerals and a move towards greener, simpler and more affordable funeral alternatives.

A traditional funeral would cost (on average) around $7,365 (NFDA) without any cemetery costs included.  More families are struggling financially to meet funeral expenses in today’s economic climate, and cremation has gained popularity in the last 10 years.  Cremation was considered to offer a ‘greener’ alternative to traditional burial.  And it is way more affordable.  A typical direct cremation service costs between $895 and $3,000 in and around Atlanta.

Why opt for a green funeral or natural burial in Atlanta?

But why this changing shift towards natural burial options?  The environment and the climate crisis has been a growing concern in society, especially over the last few years.  The big shift towards cremation has, I believe, been positioned to us by the funeral industry as it still gave them some power and control over our death-care options.  We needed a cheaper alternative to expensive traditional funerals.

But now more Americans are considering the carbon footprint of a cremation.  And if there is a more natural, and less detrimental option for disposition, we are open to consider it.

In 2017, a study conducted at the request of the City of Paris found that traditional burials generate, on average, 833 kilograms (or almost 1 ton) of carbon dioxide, nearly the equivalent of a round-trip flight between Paris and New York. Cremation produces an average of 233 kilograms (500 pounds).  A natural ‘green’ burial can eliminate the majority of any emissions, and if combined with replanting trees and natural vegetation, can even help to reverse greenhouse gases.

Natural Green Funeral Options GAWhat is considered a green funeral or natural burial?

The concept of a natural burial is to lay the body to rest returning to the earth in a natural state of recomposing. No embalming fluids are used in preserving the body.  After death, the deceased can be kept on dry ice, or in refrigerated storage, until the burial can proceed.

The body is buried in a simple wicker casket that is bio-degradable, a simple pine box (with no metal) or even just a burial shroud.  There are no concrete vaults.  A burial plot is dug and the body laid to rest.

Some green burial sites are nature preserves where trees or local shrubs are planted to help regenerate and conserve.  The natural burial sites and conservation burial sites are offering the ‘true’ future of natural organic death-care.  Although, many existing traditional cemeteries in Georgia have added a green division to their grounds to appeal to the growing demand for green burial.  These are what are known as hybrid cemeteries.

To learn more about green burial sites and memorializing a natural burial, visit the guide to green funerals on US Funerals Online.

Natural burial vs. Cremation

Direct cremation will cost you around $1,000 and a green funeral starts at around $2,000.  If you employ the services of a funeral director, there will also be their professional service charge to add to the natural burial plot fee.  However, as Georgia allows families to conduct their own home funeral or DIY funeral care, you do not necessarily need to employ a funeral director.

Green Burial ContainerHow much does a green burial cost in Atlanta, GA?

A green burial can save you money on funeral costs.  Typically a green burial will save you 40% on the cost of a traditional burial.  Our affiliate green funeral provider in Atlanta charges $1,895 for a green burial service.  This does not include the burial container, but a range of biodegradable caskets and shrouds are available.

If you have questions about arranging a green burial,

please call us on (470) 206-0404 and we will be happy to assist you.

Where can I have a green burial in Atlanta?

There are two bespoke Natural Burial sites around Atlanta.  Milton Fields in Milton and Honey Creek Woodlands in Conyers.  There is also Eco-Eternity Forest north of Atlanta in Dahlonega but only cremated remains can be interred in the forest.

Milton Woods was established in 1984 by Jim Bell on 17 acres.  There is a capacity for 4,000 burial plots on the meadowland.  Burial plot prices start at around $1,695.

Honey Creek Woodlands is a 2,300-acre nature preserve in Conyers operated by a Monastery.  A burial plot here costs $2,500.

You can pre-purchase a burial plot at either green burial site with a small down-payment.

Why should you consider a Green Funeral?

Over the last 7 years I have observed a dramatic shift in the U.S. funeral industry.  The decline of the ‘traditional funeral’ and the rise of cremation services.  Many in the industry responded to the changing trend towards cremation by treating it as a fad that would pass.  But here we are now with a cremation rate of 55%, and a forecast that it will reach nearly 80% by 2035.

It is widely acknowledged that this trend has been influenced by a few factors. But the 2 most significant, are cost and a move away from ‘traditional’ values.  But with an ever-growing concern and awareness about our environmental responsibility, cremation may not be a long-term solution.

Green Burial ContainerReturning to a more natural approach to death care

A green burial is almost a return to the ‘natural’ way that we buried our dead before funeral homes emerged and made death scientific and taboo.  Families would wash their dead, lay he or she out in the parlor, have a wooden coffin made by the local carpenter (undertaker) and then proceed to bury their loved one in a family cemetery on their land, or a local town or church cemetery.  There was minimum intervention of chemicals, and no grand selection of steel caskets.

So, a natural or green funeral, is simply a burial without any embalming or unnatural containers, in an area designated as green.  To me, it seems a natural evolvement of culture, the resistance to traditional values (especially by the baby boomer generation) to shift from simple cremation to simple burial.  The value-shift from ‘no fuss’, simplicity and affordability…to take in the consciousness of environmental concerns.

There is also emerging a minority revival of the home funeral, whereby families (especially those having dealt with a loved one who is elderly or with a terminal illness), feel a need to be involved in the death care process.

Regeneration as a death value

‘Regeneration’ has become a metro buzz term over recent years.  The notion of regenerating decaying areas and focusing on keeping investment local.  Maybe this value will extend to natural burial services in the coming years?  We only have to consider the choices.  More families are choosing simple cremation for its affordability and simplicity.  But if a simple natural burial was available for the same cost, and enabled families to feel that their loved one could be interred in a natural ‘space’ locally, would that offer a preferable option?

Natural burialGreen meadow or hybrid cemetery?

With a shift to an interest in green values, an increasing number of existing cemeteries, have created designated green sections.  These are what are known as ‘hybrid cemeteries’, as they still have their traditional burial plot areas.  This is how they are trying to respond and adapt to a demand for an alternative green option.

A truly natural cemetery is a conservation space.  A natural meadow or woodland, where a person can be organically interred, but no artificial markers and objects detract from the natural organic space.

Legacy: Our children’s heritage

The planet is already struggling under the weight of the damage done to it.  Millennials are the first generation to conscientiously make change and demand more eco-friendly products and services.  Green funerals are gaining more attention as the more environmentally option in death care.  Shifting our mind-set to embrace greener and more natural death care alternatives could be helping to position the industry for the wave of future funeral consumers and creating a better future legacy for future generations.

Human composting

The state of Washington has been the first to legalize human composting as a death care disposition option for the general public.  The law has been passed for this to commence from May 2020.  Human composting refers to the “above ground decomposition” of a human body.  This involves putting the body in a receptacle with soil, leaves and other organic materials to allow it to naturally decompose into the soil.  It is similar to a process that is used for livestock.

The end result differs to a natural burial in that the soil (or compost) that remains after the decomposition can be returned to the family to be spread on a garden or grow a tree.  It takes about 4 weeks for the process to complete and one cubic yard of soil is produced.  The cost for this process at present is estimated at $5,000.  So, it is not cheap death care alternative.