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  • Denise McDonald

An In-Depth Guide to Green Burial Options

We're honored to have author Denise McDonald join us to post this informative article. Denise is a cherished friend, professional writer, researcher, and lover of our planet Earth. Keep your eye on Amazon to purchase her book An Advanced Degree in Murder, coming out soon. This is an interesting article topic considering Denise's book title, don't you think? At our request, she graciously took the time to learn about Green Burial and gave us this article you can draw from while making decisions about the handling of your remains. It's a daunting but necessary subject. Read on to learn what Denise found out, and please do share in your social circles. Knowledge and planning keeps us in control.


Lori Cochrane, Principal Professional Fiduciary Cochrane Support Services

Eco-Friendlier Burial

Driving less, shopping local, and using alternative energy sources in your home are all ways to reduce your carbon footprint and live an eco-friendlier lifestyle. But how do you carry “going green” into your estate planning? You may not realize it, but there are earth-friendly options that will allow you to reduce the use of chemical preservatives, strengthen the environment, or leave a legacy of trees.


Why might you consider green burial options? Besides the environmental impact of avoiding the use of potentially toxic chemicals, emitting less carbon into the atmosphere, and reducing groundwater and soil contamination, green burial often costs less than conventional since fewer resources and energy are required. It also protects and restores habitats for native plants and animals.


As with any service, you’ll want to do your research, ask questions, and make sure you understand all options before making any decisions. Green burial isn’t a new concept. In fact, prior to the Civil War, it was normal practice. After the mourning period, people buried their loved ones without any type of embalming, allowing them to naturally return to the earth. During the war, when so many soldiers lost their lives far from home, embalming was commonly used to preserve the fallen soldiers on their long journey home.


So what does green burial look like today? Following are just a few options to get you started down the path to an eco-friendly future.


Morgan Oaks Eternal Preserve, Lincoln, CA

Morgan Oaks offers a meaningful, simplistic, and sustainable way of interment. Burials may take place on private land or in a cemetery that accommodates green burial practices. The body is not preserved with chemicals and may be placed in a cloth shroud or biodegradable coffin before burial. Morgan Oaks also maintains lands to be restored and preserved as natural habitats in Northern California.


Recompose, Southern WA

Recompose connects the end of life to the natural world using a process called natural organic reduction that gently transfers human remains into soil that can be used to regenerate the earth. Choosing Recompose over conventional burial or cremation uses 1/8 of the energy and prevents one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The breakdown of organic matter is an essential component in the cycle that allows the death of one organism to nurture the life of another.

Better Place Forests, Point Arena, CA

Better Place Forests offers a natural alternative to cemeteries. Ashes are mixed with soil and placed beneath a private tree in a peaceful forest setting, creating a meaningful resting place. Their first memorial forest, on the Mendocino Coast, is a peaceful sanctuary where families can remember their loved ones.


Alkaline Hydrolysis

Also known as water cremation, Alkaline Hydrolysis is an alternative to traditional cremation that has a lower environmental impact, including no release of mercury. The process uses far less energy than the standard procedure, which burns enough fuel to fill the tanks of two SUVs, according to The Atlantic. The law allowing alkaline hydrolysis in California went into effect in 2020, after the bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017. Googling this process will take you to more information.


The Infinity Burial Suit

The Infinity Burial Suit returns bodies to the earth naturally and respectfully. The suits and shrouds are made of mushrooms and other all-natural biodegradable material, using no chemicals or preservatives. This environmentally-friendly design helps the body naturally return to the earth, clean toxins in both the body and soil and delivers nutrients to surrounding plants. Mushrooms emit enzymes to break down organic material and are thus able to consume a large variety of nutrient sources. Traditional cemeteries may not be aware of it.


Kinkaraco Products

Kinkaraco specializes in environmentally-friendly funeral products including burial and cremation shrouds. Founder Esmerelda Kent was inspired to become a green burial pioneer and worked at California’s first green cemetery, Fernwood. After discovering that only religious shrouds were available and that secular green burial was not an option at standard funeral homes, Esmerelda was inspired to create her own shrouds to help families lay their loved ones to rest in a way that is gentle to the Earth.


You can read A Brief History of Shrouds and Such here: https://kinkaraco.com/pages/history


You can learn more about green burial while visiting the Green Burial Council's website by clicking on this link: https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/.


Estate Planning and End of Life Wishes

Most of us don’t think about making burial arrangements until it’s time to lay a loved one to rest. However, thinking about your own arrangements is an important part of estate planning. It takes the burden off your family and ensures your wishes will be carried out. And if you chose a green option, you’ll know your green legacy will be preserved.