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Information About A Green Burial

What is a Green Burial?

The designation “green” points to the most obvious aspect green burials are environmentally friendly. They attempt to protect and preserve the environment and the natural cycles occurring in it. Some people regard these as the most important reasons for having such a burial. Rather than being hermetically sealed in isolation or removed through cremation, the remains of the deceased continue to be part of the natural life cycle of the planet.

How is a green burial different from other burials?

Green burials differ from other burials only in the importance they place on environmental preservation and continuation. The decomposition of human remains is considered to be a natural part of the life cycles of the planet, and green burials strive to allow this process to happen unimpeded. Those who choose a green burial often do so as a celebration of ongoing life, and they prefer “natural” burial settings over more “artificial” cemeteries.

Are green burials something new?

In fact, green burials are as old as life itself. Before the practice of embalming and use of sealed caskets became the norm in North America (initially, because of the long distances human remains often needed to be transported), virtually all burials were green. Even today, in many small, rural cemeteries, it may still be possible to be buried “green.”

Can different types of burial be green?

Yes, “greenness” might be assigned different levels based on interment practices. The MSBC considers minimum requirements for a burial to be considered green to include: a biodegradable coffin, no embalming and no grave liner. The Society’s second level includes the minimum requirements plus the planting of flowers or small shrubs on and next to graves. The highest level is the natural setting of a nature or burial park.

What prevents me from choosing a green burial?

The most obvious obstacle may be existing cemetery practices. Virtually all cemeteries accept unembalmed remains and biodegradable coffins, but most insist on grave liners to facilitate lawn maintenance – the regular maintenance of which can cause further environmental damage.

What is happening in British Columbia?

The Memorial Society of BC recognizes that individual members may differ in the standards they use to consider a burial acceptably ‘green.’ Accordingly, it is actively working to ensure that all levels of green burials are available throughout the province.

To have your name included in the growing list of persons to be notified of new MSBC Green Burial initiatives as they develop, contact us.


The Mariner's Rest

Located in Howe Sound, sailors’ ashes may be scattered here. A “guestbook” is maintained by the Anglican Church’s Mission to Seafarers.


Christmas Eve in Jõhvi, Estonia

In Estonia, cemeteries are locally run and found in forests. Graves are dug by friends. On Christmas Eve, the custom is to visit one’s ancestors’ graves, place a votive candle on them and wish them “Happy Christmas!” Traditional burials in Estonia and many other countries where funerals are not commercialized are de facto ‘green burials’.

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Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria is planning a Green Burial section. It is scheduled to be opened in the fall of 2008. Their brochure describes the green burial site, to be called the Woodlands.

Report on Cremation – detailing its harmful effects on the environment was presented by the Chief Medical Officer of Brisith Columbia. The report was credited for the denial of an application for rezoning for a new crematorium in Kamloops in May, 2006.

Green Burial Council – The Green Burial Council is a nonprofit organization founded to educate the public about opportunities for using the burial process to encourage sustainability among cemeteries and funeral providers, to facilitate legitimate landscape level conservation efforts, and to bring about practices that are transparent, fair, and honest.

Promession – is the Swedish invention of freeze-drying a corpse, pulvarizing it, separating metals (tooth fillings, replacement hips) for recycling, and returning the remainer to pure organic material in a year. This appears to be the most ‘green’ form of disposition.