An eco-friendly burial may cost a third or less of the money a traditional funeral would require. Here are four aspects of a green burial that may inspire you to choose it over a more conventional burial during the pre-planning phase, whether because your budget is tight or because you're concerned with leaving a green legacy.
1. No grave liner. Green burial facilities, sometimes called sanctuaries or nature preserves, generally require no burial vault or grave liner and may even prohibit these options. These in-grave structures, often made of concrete, can slow the decomposition process and use up non-renewable resources. Conventional cemeteries use them to prevent the top of the grave from sinking as the soil settles, but, in addition to being a less eco-friendly option, they also add considerably to funeral expenses. You may be able to save a thousand dollars or even more simply by the omission of a burial vault.
2. Biodegradable casket. Green burial facilities offer biodegradable, low-impact caskets that have minimal effect on the Earth both during the manufacturing process and after they're buried. These frequently use materials such as bamboo, thick cardboard, or woven willow. They're also incredibly affordable; a cardboard casket may set you back as little as $50, and you can even personalize it by having family and friends autograph it before the burial.
3. No embalming. Green burial facilities often forbid embalming, since it makes the decedent's remains less eco-friendly because of the use of chemicals such as formaldehyde. Since embalming is a delicate and detailed process that may take hours of work, forgoing it can also cut down on costs. Be warned, however; you'll have to have the funeral a bit sooner without the preserving effects of the embalming process.
4. Shallower graves. Although the traditional depth for a grave is usually considered to be six feet deep, green burials may involve slightly shallower graves. This is because microbe activity, which is required for natural decomposition, is most efficient near the surface. Of course, green burial facilities are careful to bury remains deep enough to prevent the possibility of having them dug up by animals later. However, the relative shallowness of the burial helps to encourage the natural process of decomposition, allowing eventual re-use of the burial plot (if you choose that option).
These four aspects show how a natural burial can both help out your budget and help your return to the Earth be as gentle and Earth-friendly as possible.