Americans are becoming more aware of green burials in the United States as legitimate burial options, but locating the right places to perform such burials can be tricky, as they are not yet considered the norm. Check out these profiles for seven established sites to get a better idea of what to expect regarding the process of green burials.
What Is a Green Burial?
A green burial is a burial that involves laying the deceased to rest in a manner that involves minimal environmental impact, a reduction of carbon footprint and emissions, and the preservation and restoration of habitat. In a green or natural burial, bodies are buried under the earth, sans cremation, embalming chemicals and practices, or traditional caskets and liners. Sometimes biodegradable caskets or containers are used in the process, but the overall goal of the green burial is for bodies to undergo complete decomposition and make a full return to the earth. Many believe that the green burial practices come with ample benefits including:
- Preservation of natural space
- Lower burial costs
- Reducing hazardous chemicals
- Conservation of natural resources
When considering a natural or green burial, know that certain rules and regulations apply to the process. Be sure to examine all the requirements so that your burial is in compliance with laws in your state.
Where to Find Green Burial Sites in the United States
Finding a funeral home that will help conduct a green or natural burial in the United States is not as challenging as it might initially sound. This process of laying the dead to rest is not new, as the first green cemetery opened back in 1998. Today there are nearly 350 green or hybrid cemeteries in the United States and Canada helping people bury their loved ones per their natural choices. Some cemeteries include a green burial section within a traditional cemetery, while others are designed to solely meet the needs of natural burials.
Utah: Memorial Lake View Mortuary and Cemetery
This is Utah's only certified green burial space. Located at the foothills of Bountiful, Utah, Memorial Lake View Mortuary and Cemetery gives families in Utah a chance to lay their dead to rest among native plants and rolling landscape without more than a hint of human footprint. The cemetery makes sure to provide everything necessary for a natural burial, including the preparation and transportation of the deceased, supervision of the burial, and the filing of all necessary documentation, permits, and certificates, making hard times slightly easier for grieving families.
Colorado: Colorado Burial Preserve
Located in Florence, Colorado, Colorado Burial Preserve was the first green cemetery in Colorado. The scenic resting place contains a green cemetery as well as a cremation garden. For those seeking a true return to the earth experience, but hoping that loved ones join them when it's their time to pass, Colorado Burial Preserve offers large family plots as well.
All plots here, regardless of the type of burial, are registered as a part of the Native Prairie Restoration program. The burial areas get seeded and weeded until natural vegetation balance is restored. The cemetery is growing as well. It aims to be so much more than a resting place for the dead as renovations are underway to add an outdoor amphitheater service area, hiking trails, and a discovery-demonstration garden for ecological education to the space.
Texas: Mountain Creek Cemetery
Mountain Creek Cemetery was certified as a Hybrid Cemetery by the Green Burial Council in September of 2019. This means that parts of the cemetery function as a traditional cemetery while other areas function as green or natural cemeteries. Mountain Creek allows families to be heavily involved in the burial process of their loved one, as long as rituals and burial proceedings do not conflict with cemetery policy or state law. Families who choose to bury the dead here can either forego embalming (common with green burials) or use non-toxic embalming fluids. This cemetery offers varying prices depending on the type of natural burial families choose.
Massachusetts: Mount Auburn Cemetery
In 2014, Mount Auburn became the first Massachusetts cemetery to be certified by the Green Burial Council. Here, families of the deceased can bury their loved ones in either biodegradable containers or directly into the earth. Most of the gravesites are located in what is referred to as the historic core. This is a space littered with mature trees and early-century monuments. Mount Auburn offers several memorial options including:
- Unmarked graves that are mapped via GPS
- Small markers in the form of a memorial tree plaque
- Central listing stones
South Carolina: Ramsey Creek Preserve
Ramsey Creek Preserve, established in 1998 and located north of Atlanta and south of Greenville, is said to be one of the first green burial sites in the United States. Ramsey Creek is protected from future development by a conservation easement, a permanent usage restriction on the deed of a piece of land. The right to enforce this usage restriction has been granted to Upstate Forever, a South Carolina land trust that is dedicated to the protection of certain natural areas in South Carolina.
Memorial Ecosystems manage the Ramsey Creek Preserves, and they provide a convenient list of pricing options on their website. A traditional natural burial is listed as costing between $3,500 and $4,500. Ramsey Creek does offer pre-need payment plans for gravesites, and interestingly also offers sites for burying pets who have died. The burial of cats and small dogs costs $200, and it costs $50 to bury cremated pet remains.
California: Forever Fernwood
Forever Fernwood is a natural burial ground located north of San Francisco in Marin County, California. The burial ground is adjacent to a conventional cemetery in an area that's become overgrown with invasive plant species. Each burial is a chance to clear the gravesite of these plants and replant grasses and wildflowers that are native to the area.
Bodies can be buried in the natural area at Fernwood in wooden caskets, cardboard coffins, or a simple burial shroud. Small stone markers are allowed, but the GPS coordinates of each grave are recorded to allow for easy location of gravesites for visitors.
Ohio: Foxfield Preserve
Foxfield Preserve is unique in that it is owned and operated by a non-profit organization, The Wilderness Center. Located near Wilmot, Ohio, Foxfield is intended to be both a wildlife refuge and a nature preserve, in addition to being Ohio's first natural burial ground.
As in all-natural burial grounds, bodies are buried in biodegradable caskets or shrouds and are not allowed to be embalmed before burial. The embalming process uses toxic chemicals that would harm the plants and wildlife around the burial site, which is contrary to the preserve's mission of restoring the prairie and forests that used to make up the landscape of Foxfield.
Green Burial Sites in the United States
To find other currently operating green burial grounds, visit the Green Burial Council. Here, you can find information on regulations and guidelines pertaining to green burials, approved funeral directors, cemeteries, and green burial products. The site includes an interactive map of the United States, making the search for locations that perform green or natural burials as easy as a click of a button. Handling the passing of a loved one is complicated, but finding a space to carry out their wishes of a green burial does not have to be, as long as you know what to look for and where to look.