Massachusetts is one of the most green-funeral-friendly states in the nation. If you would like to lower the environmental impact of your funeral, a green funeral could be right for you.
What is a green burial?
Other than cremation, many eco-friendly funeral alternatives exist. These alternatives are often called "green funerals" because they explore environmental stewardship.
According to the Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Health, green burials differ from traditional burials in the following ways:
- The body is not embalmed
- The casket or urn is made of biodegradable materials (no metal handles or rubber seals)
- There is no concrete grave vault or lining
However, there are many other ways to include green options within a traditional funeral. Any choice you make to avoid unnecessary waste or environmental impact is a "green" choice.
You might be concerned that you cannot be buried in a traditional cemetery if you are not embalmed. Your green burial can take place in an existing "hybrid" cemetery where embalmed and non-embalmed bodies alike rest together.
What are common myths about green burials?
- Embalming is mandatory: Despite what funeral homes would like you to believe, there is no law stating that you must embalm a body before burial. Some cemeteries have these policies.
- Only professionals should handle a body: A dead body cannot transfer most bacteria or viruses, but some bodily fluids can. Unless they died of Ebola or other rare blood diseases, it is safe to wash, dress and prepare a body for burial. Common refrigeration methods are proven methods to temporarily preserve a body. Regular bleach and good hygiene are usually sufficient.
- A green funeral is difficult to organize. You can plan a green funeral like any other funeral. There are over 20 different "hybrid" cemeteries in Massachusetts alone. It is best to plan well in advance and share your wishes with your loved ones.
A green funeral is a spectrum. You might choose organ donation, cremation, a biodegradable urn but also agree to use a concrete vault. You could choose native flowers, cater local seasonal foods and choose a whole-body green burial. Your funeral can be as unique as your life and can reflect your hopes for a more sustainable future.