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By Samuel R. Avro on Dec 15, 2008 with no responses

‘Green’ Advocacy After Death; Eco-Friendly Burials on the Upswing


The traditional methods of burial may be losing ground to the newer eco-friendly alternatives.

In a case of ideology after death, belief in the cause is being taken to the grave – literally. The ‘green’ burial option, an alternative to traditional burial practices, is increasing in popularity.

“There are two recent national surveys that suggest green burial is moving into the mainstream,” says Joe Sehee of the non-profit Green Burial Council. “The first was conducted by AARP in 2007 and it suggests that 21% of Americans 50+ have a preference for eco-friendly death-care. Another national study conducted earlier this year suggests this figure is twice as high.”

Also known as natural burial, a ‘green’ burial ensures that the burial site retains its natural state as much as possible. Instead of embalming fluids and a concrete vault, internment is done in a bio-degradable casket or shroud.

Americans bury 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid and 30-plus million board feet of timber every year. Over 100,000 tons of steel for caskets and vaults, and more than 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete are also used each year.

Founded three years ago in order to encourage environmentally sustainable death-care practices and products, the Green Burial Council now boasts a network of more than 200 approved providers comprised of cemeteries, funeral homes, cremation disposition programs, and burial containers.

Another big issue is price, say industry experts. “Many people are appalled at the costs of modern day funerals and believe that the whole event is totally overpriced,” says John Wilkerson of the Glendale Nature Preserve.

While costs may vary depending on the cemetery, Wilkerson says that he charges $1,800 for the opening and closing of the grave. That’s an immense savings when compared to a traditional burial which can cost more than $5,000.

The eco-friendly burial option is gaining popularity among a wide variety of people, says Mr. Sehee. “What’s interesting about green burial is that it’s not something that just appeals to the ‘eco chic’. Conservative religious traditionalists, outdoor enthusiasts, cost-conscious consumers are all attracted to green burial.”

It’s still not the cheapest option, as cremation is, and always will be less expensive, according to Mr. Sehee.

At the Glendale Nature Preserve, they encourage loved ones to take an active part in the planning and the burial, including the actual filling of the grave. “We believe that physical activity eats up a lot of emotion,” says Mr. Wilkerson. “Many have eagerly participated, others have reluctantly grabbed a shovel; but upon completion they have all thanked us profusely for the opportunity.”

Mr. Wilkerson says he takes pride in the work they do. “For us, the green cemetery was started as a means of keeping the farm intact. It has become a means of conserving resources and most rewarding of all, a service to humanity.”