Category: Green Funerals

How many U.S natural cemeteries are there? - April 15, 2014 by Admin

When I first began investigating the emerging green burial movement back in the early 2000s, you could just about survey this country’s natural cemetery landscape in a single sweep.

There was a budding graveyard on a family farm halfway across the Florida Panhandle, another one ensconced in a pine forest north of Houston, a few others. And then the flagship operation at South Carolina’s RamseyCreek Preserve, ground zero for the chapter in Grave Matters on the natural cemetery

What a difference a decade makes.

Today, my very rough tally puts the number of natural cemeteries in the United States near 150, all scattered across nearly 40 states. And counting. (My definition of the green cemetery is equally rough: it’s one that allows for the vaultless burial of an unembalmed body, which is then shrouded and/or casketed in biodegradable material).

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these new natural burial grounds take root within the environs of existing, traditional cemeteries. As anyone who has tried to start a natural cemetery can tell you, it’s a lot easier to pull off when you have the land, infrastructure (backhoes, staff, etc.), and approvals from the get-go.

Some of these “hybrid” cemeteries, as they’re sometimes called, are places like Mound Cemetery (in the greater Minneapolis area), which allow for vaultless burial anywhere on their grounds. Others have set aside special preserves for green burial only. That’s what we did at Green Meadow (in eastern Pennsylvania, pictured below), transforming a fallow field at the edge of the cemetery into a meadow of wildflowers and native grasses (not as simple as it sounds, turns out).  

If my conversations with alt.burialists and cemetery managers is any indication, the natural burial movement is poised to take off in these established hallowed grounds. One recent indication: Mount Auburn(Boston area), the first rural cemetery in this country (1831), is set to go green. (Join me in celebrating that at a free, afternoon event, on June 14th.) 

A number of other natural cemeteries have rooted themselves on their own property, be it a forest, family farm, municipal land, or, in one case, a golf course. The greenest of the bunch — the conservation burial ground — uses the green cemetery model to preserve land and restore it to ecological health, ala Ramsey Creek, that first and enduring flagship.

My survey of the green burial movement since the publication of Grave Matters has shown me what I felt would be true from the moment I first emerged from Ramsey Creek all those years ago: that green cemeteries are changing the face of death in America.

In large part, I think that’s because green burial is not, in the end, a concept that speaks solely — or even largely — to off-gridders and hybrid drive motorists. With its lower cost, simplicity, DIY approach and respect for tradition, green burial speaks to old-fashioned American values that still have a strong purchase on this country. Which explains, for one, why there are both Wiccan and Jewish green cemeteries (click on Gan Yarok), plus some dozen Catholic graveyards to boot.

The numbers don’t lie: Green burial is a big tent, not fringe, phenomenon. And it’s just getting started.

You’ll find a list of green cemeteries that have earned the Green Burial Council’s seal of approval here. Some two dozen have signed the Natural End Pledge. A listing maintained by the Funeral Consumers Alliance is here (click on 2014 Green Cemetery List). Don’t see anything near you? Email me:

Mark Harris, author
Grave Matters, “The signature book of the green burial trend.”

Web. Facebook (Grave Matters). Twitter (greenburialist).
Upcoming Appearances (all free and open to the public, except the Moravian event) 

April 13 (Sun), 2:00 PM

Ithaca, NY. Kendal at Ithaca, 2230 N Triphammer Road.
Event information: click here. 

April 30 (Wed.). 7:00 PM

Pen Argyl, PA. Slate Belt Nazareth Baptist Church, 1620 Church Road.
Event information: click here 

June 7 (Sat.), 2:00 PM

Bethlehem, PA. Moravian College, 1200 Main Street.  
I’ll be giving a presentation on memoir writing, at a wonderful, weekend writers’ conference. If you’re a writer, this conference is well worth attending.
Event information: click here  

June 14 (Sat.), 4:00 PM

Cambridge, MA. Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mount Auburn Street.
Event information: click here. 

If you’d like me to speak to your group, you can reach me at:

The photo at the head of this blog was taken at the Fultonville Natural Burial Ground, outside Albany, just after a dedication ceremony last October.

Grave Matters – A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

Organic Funerals: Carrying out The Cycle Of Life - February 4, 2013 by Admin
Organic Funerals

Copyright fallingwater123

Organic Funerals or green funerals are on the increase in attractiveness with a lot of folks looking for an eco friendly funeral reflective of their particular ideals towards the environment. Green funerals present an ecologically friendly choice to the careless and unreasonable customary funeral. The normal complete fee for a conventional burial in the USA is for the most part 00. The pure alternative is a good deal less in expenses with the normal being only 00.

Why organic funerals?

The amount of resources that go into the ground every year is past belief: 30 million feet of wood, 90,272 tons of metal and 2700 tons of copper are employed for caskets; 14,000 tons of steel and 1.6 million tons of concrete used for the construction of vaults; and 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid are put into the ground.

A ecologically aware funeral seeks to present a superior way of not polluting the ecosystem while simultaneously celebrating the deceased with a living tribute in their name. An organic funeral is one where the dead body is interred without being embalmed or being positioned in a concrete vault. A basic wooden coffin is used but the choice of a cardboard coffin or one made from bamboo, wicker or bamboo is presented. The casket is buried in a shallow grave in a special site identifiable by GPS coordinates. The only gravestone is not a granite tombstone but a tree that will be sustained by the cadaver of the departed.

Ecological friendly burial grounds double as conservation spots that are undergoing the procedure of being restored to the environment. Each year, woodland cemeteries are doubling owing to the rising pressure by ecologically sensitive citizens. A trustworthy resource of knowledge to seek advice from about the way to prepare an eco sensible burial is the Green Burial Council.

The Council is designed to showcase organic funerals as a means of conserving natural areas in the United States by educating people regarding the alternate options to customary burials. It presents a list of states that allow natural burials along with listing states which have ecological friendly burial grounds.

Searching on the Web for organic funeral services and products can turn up web sellers offering bio degradable caskets, funeral shrouds and even hollowed out gourds for cremations.

Before somebody starts to plan an ecologically sensitive burial, verify state laws or see a local authority on what to do. Not all states allow bio funerals. As an illustration, in Maryland, it’s obligatory, regardless of cremation or burial, all dead bodies need to be embalmed.

How then can a burial ground be verified as an genuine green one? The Green Burial Council lists several principles that natural graveyards must go by in order to be considered as such. A conservation group or committee should be present to supervise the compliance and the operation of a environmentally friendly burial ground. All woodland cemeteries should have a number of sorts of surveying done to guarantee that the area is appropriate from geological, geographical and hydrological purposes. Further aspects to consider are the way in which the graves are to be dug; and how will the graves be recognized and located.

Eco funerals, apart from donating organs, are the best gift to the families of the dead. It teaches that death is a part of existence, not anything to be fearful of or glossed over with euphemisms, cosmetics or chemicals. The dead can continue to give to the environment by becoming a component of the land, the trees, the grass and the flowers.

Organic Funerals

The CSI behind exhuming Arafat: Tissue, hair and soil – Vitals - December 17, 2012 by Admin

Investigators who exhumed the body of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday will be testing samples of tissue, possibly bone, and hair, a forensic specialist says. But they’ll be up against the clock in trying to detect the radioactive…

Alternative Funeral Monitor

Hands on funeral for homeless man | The Good Funeral Guide - December 7, 2012 by Admin

Undertaker Rupert Callender in Totnes is appealing to his fellow townspeople to turn out to help carry the coffin of a homeless man, Michael Gething, through the streets to his funeral — and then on to the burying ground at…

Alternative Funeral Monitor

Going Back to Blueberry Mountain - September 7, 2012 by Admin

On a bright, sultry morning a few weeks ago, my family hiked up the small, blueberry-topped mountain that lies a few miles from the summer home my in-laws own in the wilds of New Hampshire.

When we reached the summit, Theresa set her pack on a granite boulder, looked out to the forested horizon and made the announcement that’s become a standard feature of our annual trek into local blueberry territory: “Now don’t forget,” my wife said to me, our two teenage daughters and, seemingly, the universe. “This is where I want to be buried when I die.”

We hardly needed the reminder. Theresa has talked long and openly about her final wishes. Even in grade school our daughters could (and sometimes did) recite the brief of her burial plans to their astonished classmates: My Mama wants to be cremated, have her ashes put in a paper bag and buried under a blueberry bush in New Hampshire.

The blueberry mountain is, our girls know, Theresa’s special place. From early childhood on, my wife has been coming to this lush and verdant hill, to hike, pick blueberries, and for at least a few hours commune with a natural world that couldn’t look any more pristine and untrammeled. Stand at the peak beside the lone fire tower here and all you’ll see is a hilltop overrun in blueberry and raspberry bushes and, beyond, stretching into the far distance in every direction, an undulating and unbroken landscape of trees.

For almost fifty years, Theresa has absorbed this place. Its clean air has filled her lungs; its colors and calm and rhythms have filled her being. In all that time, this wooded corner of the Granite State has, metaphorically but also quite literally, become a part of who she is. Of course, she would want to return here at the end.

When it comes, my wife’s green burial on blueberry mountain will rejoin her with the elements that so infused and inspired her in life. At the last, she will simply be one with her beloved patch of earth. And when she is, her children can come and find their mother in Mother Nature — in these blueberry bushes and red maples, on the winding trail up this mountain and at its peak — where she lives on.

A green burial can save us money. It’s good for the planet, hews to honorable tradition, and celebrates our loved ones. More than all that, it returns our departed to the natural cycle of life — of life and death, decay and rebirth — that turns forever. And in that way, gains them immortality.

Mark Harris
author of Grave Matters
“The signature book on the green burial trend.” Bangor Daily News

Upcoming Events: November 7, Northampton Community College (Bethlehem, PA)

Grave Matters – A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

CBS report on Home Funerals - March 31, 2011 by Admin


Home Funeral Photos on - March 10, 2011 by Admin

A site with photos about home funerals so you can view different scenarios where they have been used.

New rules to allow natural burials in Dunedin | Otago Daily Times Online News Keep Up to Date Local, National New Zealand & International News - February 14, 2011 by Admin

Natural burials could one day become Dunedin’s only method of interment, and the rules for the city’s cemeteries are to be rewritten to allow them, a Dunedin City Council staff member says. via And, in the meantime, the council…

Alternative Funeral Monitor

LA County coroner sells own line of merchandise – Washington Times - December 4, 2010 by Admin

LA County coroner sells own line of merchandise – Washington Times. By Christina Hoag-Associated Press LOS ANGELES | The morgue is about the last place you would think of to go shopping, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that sales at Los…

Alternative Funeral Monitor

Judge sanctions Eden Memorial owner over evidence tampering | Community | Jewish Journal - December 3, 2010 by Admin

[...As cemeteries lose income during the rush to cremation, more and more of them will cut corners in order to maximize revenues (and eventually minimize losses). The cemetery-side of the story is that the costs of upkeep outweigh the money...

Alternative Funeral Monitor

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