Photo: Plan a green funeral or green burial

Planning the end – what’s the greenest way to go? Return to the earth naturally with a green funeral or burial. (Credit: Jerry via Flickr)

There will come a time when we won't be here anymore. We die, bye-bye, gone...there, I said it.

A growing number of environmentally conscious people are considering more sustainable options when planning for their deaths or for the loss of their loved ones, such as green funerals and green burials (they're not the same thing). It's a natural lifecycle progression really, what with "green" weddings, and having "green" babies...

What's a green funeral?

Some funeral homes aim is to maximize environmentally friendly funeral practices (PDF file) while minimizing environmental impact. Erb and Good Family Funeral Home, for example, has 100 per cent recycled content paper brochures and maintains their grounds without toxic pesticides.

A family can choose not to embalm or embalming without formaldehyde products ("greener" chemicals are rare, but consumer demand will help pressure the industry). There are also sustainable and biodegradable shrouds, caskets or urns. And forget the silk flowers — use only native plants on gravesites!

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What's a green burial?

Green burials or natural burials are low impact, use less energy, consume fewer resources (like water), are less toxic, and may include local, sustainable materials. However, they are not available across Canada (which makes green funerals an excellent option, in the meantime.)

Bodies are not embalmed because that delays decomposition. Without formaldehyde to preserve the body, toxic chemicals are avoided, reducing harmful exposure both to nature and the embalmer.

Instead, bodies are wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket. Protected green space becomes the final resting place. Currently only a few cemeteries in Canada have designated green sites at their cemeteries: the Union Cemetery in Cobourg, Ontario , Duffin Meadows Cemetery, near Toronto, Ontario and Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria, B.C.

What about cremation?

Although it seems like a greener option — because it uses few resources, takes up less space, and preserves land — traditional cremations use fossil fuels and turn bodies into air pollution. However, the Green Burial Council is working on more eco-friendly options, such as recycling medical parts and fuel-efficient containers.

Do you have a green end-of-life plan?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

P.S. Another way to green your loved one's passing is by making a donation to an Earth-friendly organization, such as the David Suzuki Foundation.

August 12, 2011

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Oct 26, 2016
9:36 AM

Hi, i was wondering there was any other optionof green burial? also, i would like to know if there are green burial sites in the province of Québec.

Thank you! :)

Feb 13, 2015
8:37 AM

This article (Plan a green funeral or green burial) is a little old. Are these still the most current options for a green passing?

May 12, 2014
2:37 PM

Most of your links are dead. You should give these links a green funeral!

Oct 12, 2011
5:03 PM

Relevant information of burial practices on the environment comparing natural burial to freeze-drying:

Internment — Air = No

Sep 22, 2011
11:12 AM

Green burial is very problematic concept. I believe a Swedish company called Promessa Organic AB has found a better way to lay the dead to rest. The company’s founder, biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, has developed an ecological form of burial in which the corpse is transformed into compost in about 6-12 months. The organic burial process avoids embalming fluids and greatly reduces the environmental impact on the air, water, and soil. Metal surgical implants are removed using a metal separator from the dry powder. If death is caused by infectious disease which can survive death by as much as five years, the powder can also be disinfected before burial or cremation.

Sep 14, 2011
11:31 AM

Everything old is new again! Traditional Jewish burials (and I think some other faith group's as well) use only biodegradeable wooden caskets held together with wooden pegs — no metal nails. Bodies are wrapped in shrouds made of biodegradeable cotton or linen. No embalming. No other objects in the coffin.

Sep 13, 2011
3:28 PM

What an interesting conversation to have with my aging friends. Certainly thought provoking!

Sep 09, 2011
11:35 AM

Hi Lindsay,

Thanks for the article! I wanted to pass on that OUR Ecovillage and the Green Burial Council have created The Commemorative Legacy Project which is an initiative that offers people a natural, conservation space to scatter the cremated remains of their loved ones on OUR Ecovillage's conservation gounds. OUR Ecovillage is located only 45mins North of Victoria near Shawnigan Lake. Another option for end of life planning.

Just thought I'd pass it along. With Gratitude, Cindy

Sep 08, 2011
7:44 PM

I am so happy to finally hear this topic discussed. I would be pleased to become earth food as opposed to more toxic waste.

Sep 08, 2011
10:22 AM

I think having a green funeral is a wonderful way of making a final statement of leaving this world as you came in. There is no need to further damage the earth with unfriendly environmental practices. Let your burial become your final statement!

Aug 23, 2011
11:44 AM

Very good article!

Another reason (in green burial) bodies are not embalmed is because embalming is perceived as being unnatural… and our blood which carried our life’s spirit gets washed (drained) into a sewage system.

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