Back to the earth
When planning a funeral you may be interested in investigating some alternatives to the traditional funeral. Traditional funerals tend to be incredibly expensive and may not offer the chance to honor the decedent in a way that feels appropriate.
Green burial is one of those new ideas that actually came from a very old idea. Early American Puritans eschewed any ceremony that was wasteful or seen as pompous, so this type of burial was common. Green burial (also called direct burial) means that the body is buried in a simple container, with no embalming (which requires formaldehyde and other chemicals) and much less ceremony. There's usually no viewing or visitation. The body's buried much sooner after death than it would be in a traditional ceremony.
The funeral costs of a green or direct burial are likely to be much less than a traditional service, as there are no fees for care of the body, viewing time or transportation. As well, there’s no casket or cemetery plot.
Green burials tend to be viewed as more environmentally friendly than traditional burials or even cremation. They require a lot less land space and they don’t release any pollution into the air as cremation does. This means that green burials can be a great way to have personalized funerals for people who were environmentally-conscious.
However, you might also want to consider the bereaved when planning a green burial. The traditional funeral format is a familiar and established acknowledgement of a death, allowing people to mourn the loss of a loved one. A green burial doesn’t follow the customs of a traditional funeral, which might leave the bereaved feeling as if they are missing out on an important part of the grieving process. Remember, funerals are for the living and you have to keep their feelings in mind.
Green burials often take place in special reserves set aside for just this purpose. In the US, 32 acres of land have been set aside at the Ramsey Creek Preserve, near Westminster, South Carolina. Between five and ten people a year are interred there, though the trend is catching on and numbers will likely increase. In other areas of the world, such as Great Britain, direct burial is a more accepted practice. There are over 200 direct burial cemeteries in the UK alone.
Cremation itself is considered ‘green’ by many, as there’s less land use and often no casket (although it does cause air pollution). It is even more environmentally friendly because the body is cremated soon after death without undergoing embalming. (As such, there’s also no viewing or visitation involved.) Direct cremation certainly costs less than a traditional funeral, with fees generally restricted to the funeral home's basic services fee, some transportation and care fees and the crematory fee.