Planning An Environmentally Friendly Funeral And Burial

 If you are making final arrangements for someone or pre-planning your own funeral and burial, there are a number of ways you can make the process more environmentally friendly:

Preparation of the Body

You may not be aware that is possible and legal to refuse embalming, and there are plenty of good reasons to avoid it including:

  • The fluid normally used contains formaldehyde, solvents, and methanol, which denature body cells and make them resistant to the natural bacterial breakdown of the body.

  • This slows down decomposition but does not completely stop it from happening. Without it, the body breaks down and returns to nature quicker and easier.

  • Embalming usually serves no religious or spiritual purpose in contemporary cultural society.

  • Even though the ancient Egyptians did it for royalty and the wealthy, it began being used in the last few centuries for transport of soldiers who had died in battle, and then became a widespread practice. The majority of humanity that have lived and died have not been embalmed.

  • In most situations, it does not give any sanitation or public health benefits.

If there is a delay in the burial you can have the body kept in a special refrigerator at a hospital or a funeral home that has one. A body can also be kept on dry ice to preserve it longer. While embalming fluid has additives that give a more life-like appearance to the flesh, if you have a viewing and burial within a day following the death of a loved one, pallor and discoloration may not be an noticeable problem.

Embalming is required if you are transporting the body across some state lines, and some funeral homes still require it if the body will be shown. There are embalming methods available that do not require the use of toxic chemicals.

Environmentally Friendly Caskets/Urns

You can order caskets and urns now-a-days that are made of biodegradable and sustainable materials.  These include beautiful wicker coffins woven from sea-grass, willow or bamboo, and those made from wool, pine or willow. These products break down much quicker and easier when placed in the ground but to use one, you may have to find a "green" cemetery that allows them.

Green urns for cremation remains are also available, and they are made from materials such as handmade paper, hemp and Himalayan rock salt, which dissolve in water or break down easily when buried. If you want the urn to last so that you can place it in a tomb, choose one made from bamboo, which is a highly sustainable material.


The modern cremation facilities still use fossil fuels but are much more efficient than in the past, so it is a green alternative. To make it more environmentally friendly, use a casket for the body made of something that burns easily, and does not contain toxic substances or glues. You should ask the mortician to remove an amalgam fillings prior to cremation because they can release mercury into the air.

To plan a green funeral, talk to the mortician and funeral home director about your concerns. They may have some additional suggestions for an environmentally friendly memorial service and burial. Request that embalming be avoided or done with non-toxic fluids, and choose a casket or urn made of biodegradable and sustainable materials. To learn more, contact a company like Foster-Warne Funeral Home with any questions you have.