Our Most Frequently Asked Questions
1) What is "green burial?"
“Green burial” means not being embalmed, being buried in the ground without a vault, in a bio-degradable container, having as low an impact on the environment as possible. By not placing cement, harsh chemicals and resource-intensive, non-biodegrable caskets into the earth, green burials are kinder to the planet. Green burials return to the processes that we have followed as human beings for thousands of years.
2) I want to be cremated, isn't that "green?"
There is a spectrum of "greenness" in almost every activity, including burials/disposition. The conventional burial, with its vaults, non-biodegradable caskets and embalming practices, is on the far end of the spectrum away from green, traditional burials. Incendiary cremation falls in the middle of the spectrum. In the US, crematoriums are not required to have filters for impurities such as mercury or other heavy metals that may be present in our bodies, which are released into the air. Additionally, unless you specifically request a clean-burning container, you may be cremated in any container in which you arrive at crematorium, including a plastic body bag, which will release dioxin upon burning. Additionally, if you are embalmed before cremation, those chemicals are similarly released into the atmosphere without filters. Finally, the fossil fuel energy required for conventional cremation (at 1400 to 2100 °F), is significant.
If you are committed to cremation, please request that you a) not be embalmed, b) be cremated in a clean-burning container c) have any mercury amalgam fillings or other devices, such as pacemakers, removed and properly disposed of prior to cremation, and c) consider including the cremains in a reef ball or other eco-friendly final resting place, such as a conservation burial ground or in most states you own property.
3) Is it legal to be buried without being embalmed?
Yes. All states do not require embalming in most cases. Embalming maintains the body for up to five days. Funeral homes are not allowed to say that the body is preserved forever. Indeed, cases have come before the courts that disallow stating that embalming is not to be considered to last forever, but guaranteed only for 5 days. If you are told otherwise, please report this violation to the FTC.
4) Is it legal to be buried without a vault?
No state requires vaults for burial. Vaults are a cemetery requirement to maintain the manicured look of the lawn. If you wish to be buried green, ensure that your cemetery does not require vaults.
5) Doesn’t embalming sanitize the body and keep the environment clean?
No. Embalming does not keep a body clean. Embalming is an invasive process where by your blood is pumped out of your body and embalming fluid is replaced. Embalming fluid consists of: formaldehyde, and methanol. No one wants that in the ground water. Our bodies only become toxic when embalmed.
6) Do I have to have a funeral director involved in my funeral?
Very few States require this. Contact us if you have any question about your state. Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey and New York are the only states that require a funeral director to take custody of your body at the time of death. If you currently reside in states that allow for home funerals, check the Home Funeral Directory for a provider in your area. Midwest Green Burial Society currently is working to change this requirement. Contact us if you want to be involved with changing these laws.
7) Where can I be buried in an ecological manner?
We suggest you check the Finding a Provider page on the Green Burial website for list of certified providers. Other cemeteries in your state might provide you with an option for green burial or greener burial. What you need to ask is if the cemetery you are looking at requires a vault. Contact us if you need assistance with this process. We are aware of some local cemeteries who are not certified, but allow for green burial.
8) Can I make my own coffin or shroud, or do I have to buy it from a funeral home or cemetery?
In every state, we are allowed to make our own coffins and shrouds. You can also purchase your own coffin from wherever you like, and every funeral home is bound by law to accept it without any hidden or added fees.
9) What are the costs?
This is a tough question to answer, but according to our findings, a conventional funeral and burial averages out to about $10,000 combined. On the other hand, a green burial, with an at-home funeral, averages out to $2,975.00. We found one place that offered green burial that cost as much as $5,930.00. They charged almost twice the cost for a natural body as apposed to an embalmed body. We suggest you shop around and compare prices.
10) Is it necessary to plan?
Planning before the ultimate time of need, and having a firm grasp about what is available out there, makes things run smoothly for your loved ones. Only you know what you want and need. Take your time, but make a plan. Please note that planning is not the same as "pre-paying" or "pre-need" sales and services. Before giving anyone money for funeral or cemetery goods or services, be certain you are familiar with the laws, regulations and stipulations regarding refunds or changes to the contracts or agreements. In many cases, goods and services are only partially refundable, even if you move out of state or change your mind about your final wishes. You could go to your financial institution to discuss opening an account that can only be used at the time of need. This will allow you to keep your money, let it work for you and give you have the peace of mind that you have provided for your final wishes.
11) Don't burials take up land?
The short answer is, of course, "yes," however green burials provide a much-needed opportunity to expand conservation land through compatible use as natural burial grounds. Midwest Green Burial Society is currently working to identify land and trust partners to establish a green conservation burial ground. For more information on conservation efforts through green burials, please visit the Green Burial Council's website.