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Green Burial

What is Green Burial?

A modern natural (green) burial is an environmentally sustainable alternative to existing funeral practices where the body is returned to the earth to decompose naturally and be recycled into new life. Green burial ensures the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects. Interment of the body is done in a bio-degradable casket, shroud, or a favorite blanket. No embalming fluid, no concrete vaults.

 Why have a Green Burial?

Nature has intended that our bodies be reunited with the earth. All organisms that have lived, die and return to the soil…only to be recycled into new life. Constant microbial activity in the soil breaks everything down. Nature creates no waste. Everything is recycled.

 Burial –vs- Cremation

A green burial is a cremation alternative, and a viable alternative to “traditional” burial practices in the United States. It is an earth friendly option when considering burial –vs- cremation. Many families choose cremation because it’s seen as more environmentally friendly than traditional burial. Embalming, sealed caskets and burial vaults are not required by law. Though traditional memorial parks may require them, a green cemetery or memorial nature preserve does not. The simplicity of a green burial is in tune with nature.

Until recently, interment in an environmentally friendly burial ground was not an option. Now we can consider and encourage a natural burial, helping to preserve open spaces throughout the United States. This will increasingly become a cremation alternative. When choosing a green burial, involve your family and friends now, so difficult decisions do not need to be made in a time of grief.

 How is it different from a conventional funeral service?

The body is prepared for burial without chemical preservatives and is buried in a biodegradable material. If no body preparation is done, it must be a casket casket service. Burial is done in a “green cemetery” without a metal casket or concrete vault. There are some conventional cemeteries that offer natural burial as well.

 How does the price of Green Burial compare with conventional burials?

The cost of green burial depends on the type of service and products a family chooses.

 Is a vault needed for Green Burial?

No, green cemeteries do not require a burial vault. All cemeteries have rules and regulations, presently, most conventional cemeteries require some type of vault.

How much time lapse for Green Burial from time of death to burial?

The usual time from death to burial is 48-72 hours.

 What burial containers are considered biodegradable?

Biodegradable containers include cloth shrouds made of natural fibers, simple wooden or fiberboard caskets without special finishes or varnish, and wicker, sea grass, and bamboo caskets.

 What if there isn’t a green-burial cemetery in my state?

Green burials can occur in any cemetery where a concrete vault or liner is not required by cemetery policy. Remember, a green burial is simple. It only involves an unembalmed body, a biodegradable container, and a vaultless grave. Often rural and pioneer cemeteries do not have rules requiring the use of a vault or grave liner.

 Can a burial still be “green” if a vault is required?

Yes. You can instruct the cemetery to invert the vault/liner. This causes the bottom of the grave to be exposed to the earth, while the top of the grave has the concrete top. (Visualize an inverted, empty shoebox without its lid.) This is a common request and a “green” natural solution, as several religious traditions specify for a natural burial and installing the liner as described meets the requirement of that particular cemetery.

Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary is the first and only dedicated natural burial ground in the Cincinnati area.

Located at 796 Locust Corner Rd, Cincinnati, Ohio 45245


Spring Grove Cemetery offers green burial

Located at 4521 Spring Grove Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45232

Cincinnati Catholic Cemeteries offer green burial

-St. Mary's Cemetery in St. Bernard

-St. John Cemetery in St. Bernard

-St. Joseph Cemetery in Price Hill

Cincinnati Enquirer

Lisa Beebe, Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society

Published Feb 14, 2020

Almost everyone has, at some point, been asked the question: Would you rather be buried or cremated? But increasingly, there are more burial options to consider when deciding how best to honor the legacy of a deceased loved one. Though some are novel, others are a return to tradition – such as the case with what’s called a “green burial,” where the body is reabsorbed into the earth.

In the past decade, more adults have expressed interest in exploring green options for burials, cremation and funerals — but since death isn’t a popular conversation topic, many people are unclear on exactly what it means. With the help of the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society, a local provider of green burials operating St. Mary's Cemetery and St. John Cemetery in St. Bernard and St. Joseph Cemetery in Price Hill, we’ve outlined the facts.

What is a green burial?

Many elements of the conventional burial process, from embalming fluid to impervious steel coffins and concrete vaults are intended to slow decomposition. While these products are common, they are not required. There are no state laws necessitating that a body be embalmed with formaldehyde or placed in a casket. While individual cemeteries have their own policies, families have more flexibility in their funeral choices than they may realize.

What we now think of as a “green” burial is really quite traditional. It is how people were put to rest for most of human history. A green burial may involve skipping the embalming process and its toxic chemicals, and choosing instead to wrap the body in a cloth shroud or place it in a coffin made from biodegradable or plant-based materials. For those who choose to be cremated, there are countless options for biodegradable urns. Made of everything from coconut shells to rock salt to recycled paper, are designed to break down much faster than a traditional urn once they are buried.

These choices allow the body to more easily break down and be recycled into soil. Natural burials allow people to embrace of death as a natural process, and the idea that in death, we are transformed from ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

Green burials are a way to honor someone’s death in a way that feels both sacred and sustainable. They appeal to people whose lives included a close relationship with the great outdoors, such as through gardening, hiking, or outdoor sports, and those who consider environmental protection an important part of their faith. Pope Francis often speaks on ecological issues. He has said, "Our Earth needs constant concern and attention. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us."

The environmental aspects are just one benefit of green burials. When funeral costs are an issue, the simple, eco-conscious rituals of a green burial offer a more affordable option than a traditional funeral.

Creating an eco-conscious funeral

As interest in green burials has grown, so has the selection of environmentally friendly funeral products. Today, you'll find shrouds made from natural fabrics like organic unbleached cotton, bamboo and silk. Biodegradable coffins are constructed from a wide range of materials, including wicker, felted wool, recycled cardboard and sustainably-harvested, unfinished wood.

Just as it’s possible to make sustainable choices in our daily lives, they can also be incorporated into funeral arrangements. To lessen the environmental impact of a funeral, consider using organic flowers and recycled paper products. Help your loved one leave an earth-friendly legacy by requesting that friends and family make donations to an environmental nonprofit organization in that person’s name.

Green burials are available locally

In the United States, the number of green cemeteries is still quite small, but it’s possible to find a traditional cemetery that offers green burials. Here in Ohio, the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society, operating St. Mary's Cemetery and St. John Cemetery in St. Bernard and St. Joseph Cemetery in Price Hill, works with members of the community to plan the appropriate farewell for themselves or their loved ones, including green burials in a variety of peaceful natural settings. The best way to respect someone’s wishes in death is by communicating with them ahead of time so that you know exactly what they want and can involve them in the planning process. The Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society can help make you arrangements that pay tribute to a well-lived life while also giving those still living a place to remember and visit their loved ones.

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