Green Burial: Is It Right for You?

Green Burial: Is It Right for You?

Have you considered the merits of green burials?

This guest post is written by my friend and colleague Anne Murphy.

As a green burial advocate and educator, I have had many conversations with friends and family regarding the differences between green burial and cremation. Many ask me why I choose green burial. My answer? The earth is my home. It has cared for me my whole life. I breathe its air, drink from its waters, eat its plants, animals and minerals. I have consumed many of the its valuable resources. I love the earth and want it to consume me after my death. Wrap me up in my favorite blanket and lay me down into the earth.

Green burials intertwine death with life

A large stone marks a burial site in the woods.


Up until the 1830’s most people were buried at family plots, family farms or at the church cemetery. Most if not all burials would be considered “green” before then. As the population grew, several outbreaks of infectious disease gave rise to an increased concern over sanitation. At that time, people didn’t fully understand how disease spread or how to prevent it. The culture started to adopt the belief that death is dirty and should be handled by professionals, a belief that still exists today.

Green burials defined

What exactly is green burial? The Green Burial Council states it best by saying: “Green burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burials necessitate the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.” Toxic embalming fluid, cemetery vaults or grave liners are inconsistent with green burial.

“Green burials let nature take its course with our remains, while supporting both the life around us and the life to come,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Green burials can protect and preserve our earth.

When people see the environmental waste created by conventional burials they begin to see green burial as a desirable choice. Remarkably, estimates suggest that the annual application of embalming fluid— which contains the carcinogen formaldehyde—could fill up 6 olympic sized pools. Intuitively, most people agree that the pollution from conventional burials is dangerous to our planet.

As a result, the collective interest in green burial is exploding. Between 2006 to 2016 the number of green burial grounds in North America grew from 1 to 340. As our world and culture become more environmentally minded, the adoption of green burial will undoubtedly expand. My hope is to add another Green Burial ground to the list.

I encourage you to learn more about green burial. You can influence your family to proactively make a choice by stating a preference for green burial in a will or healthcare directive.


Contributing author bio:
Anne Murphy advocates for a more hands on approach to death through her work at A Thousand Hands.  She is a Home Funeral Guide, Funeral Celebrant and a Green Burial advocate.  She holds events through out the year to educate people on their natural and legal rights to care for their loved ones after death through Home Funerals and Green Burials.

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