According to the Green Burial Council: "Green burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that furthers legitimate ecological aims such as the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat." (http://www.greenburialcouncil.org/)
As defined by the National Home Funeral Directors Association website, in green burial cemeteries: "The body is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting. Any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material. Traditional standing headstones are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers."
Conventional Burial Practices:
Nearly all cemeteries in the United States use conventional burial practices. These practices include embalming the body with toxic chemicals, burial caskets made of heavy metals, and the use of concrete or metal grave liners are required. Each year across the US conventional funeral practices may use toxic embalming fluid (not required by law), tons of steel, copper and bronze in caskets, millions of board feet of hardwoods, over a million tons of reinforced concrete for grave liners (vaults) or over 10 thousand tons of steel in vaults. These are environmentally destructive practices that are not required by any laws, but are simply cemetery policies that with thoughtful management are not necessary.
All of these practices are environmental hazards and are not required by law. Additionally, conventional cemeteries use pesticides, lawn care machinery and unknown amounts of precious water in the maintenance of lawns, trees and shrubs. However, green burials are environmentally friendly. Green burial is a traditional form of burial that allows natural decomposition of human remains back into the earth. Concrete and steel grave liners are not allowed. This form of burial offers the least environmental impact possible in a wilderness-like setting. No toxic chemicals are allowed, and only earth friendly caskets or shrouds may be put into the all-natural grave. Ground maintenance is minimal due to the natural setting of shrubs and trees. Green burials are an environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional funeral practices using non-toxic and biodegradable materials.
Green Burial Protocol:
A section of a cemetery is provided where vaults are prohibited. This allows for the natural decomposition of the body. Biodegradable caskets or a shroud are used instead of traditional caskets made of heavy metals. Embalming is not allowed. The grave is not lined with concrete or metal, which also allows the body to decompose naturally. Instead, the grave is only lined with gravel, soil, and rocks. This allows for the decomposition of the body but also allows the cemetery district to identify boundaries of a grave to allow for future digging of additional burial sites. The natural burial ground has only native grasses, trees and plants. No lawns are allowed which require gas powered equipment and pesticides to maintain. The Nevada Cemetery District has reserved a section of the Cherokee Cemetery, Rough and Ready Cemetery and Red Dog Cemetery for natural green burials. www.nevadacemeterydistrict.com/green-burial/
UPDATE July 2016: Matt Melugin, Manager of Nevada Cemetery Districtconducted research about green burial from resources around the state and country. He poured endless hours of time talking with other cemetery managers around the country, health officials, anthropologists from several universities, lawyers, and other environmental officials to create a viable plan of protocol for green burial in Nevada County. Matt presented the report before the Nevada Cemetery District Board for a vote on Wednesday July 27, 2016. The board voted yes to move forward with the plan to include green burial in select cemeteries in the Nevada Cemetery District!
If you reside in Nevada County, you may NOW purchase these very low cost burial plots by calling Nevada Cemetery District (530)265-3461. Tell them you heard about it from Full Circle of Living and Dying.
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