What is green burial?

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.

How does green burial differ from conservation burial?

Conservation burial is a term coined by the Green Burial Council at the 2005 Land Trust Alliance National Rally. The concept calls for a cemetery’s adherence to a number of protocols to ensure that burials never degrade an ecosystem and, where possible, facilitate ecological restoration. It requires that surveys (biological, geological, hydrological) be done to determine where burial should and should not take place on a piece of land, and at what density. Most significantly, conservation burial requires that an established, independent conservation organization, most often a land trust, serve as steward of this land and be willing to hold a conservation easement. This legally enforceable instrument, which runs with the land, guarantees that the standards for conservation burial, set forth by the Green Burial Council, will be upheld in perpetuity.

What does it mean if a cemetery is Green Burial Council certified?

GBC certification allows consumers to be able to distinguish between the four levels of green burial ground and understand that each has a different set of standards. It requires cemetery operators commit to certain degree of transparency, accountability and third party oversight. And it prevents future owners from going back on whatever ecological or aesthetic promises have been made in the past -- from limitations on burial density that to protect a local ecosystem to prohibitions against the use of monuments that would negatively impact a view shed.

Since burial vaults are made from concrete, shouldn’t they be considered green?

While the concrete and metal in vaults may be considered "natural" to some, the manufacturing and transporting of vaults uses a tremendous amount of energy and causes enormous carbon emission. In this US, vault manufacturing requires the production of 1.6 tons of reinforced concrete. Vaults are not required in GBC-approved hybrid burial grounds, and they are prohibited in Council-certified conservation and in natural and environmentally low-impact burial grounds.

How do I know that a particular product is suitable for a green burial?

The GBC believes a casket, urn, or shroud is suitable for a green burial if it’s made from materials/substances that are nontoxic and readily biodegradable. We also require that these products not be made from materials that are harvested in a manner that unnecessarily destroys habitat, as is the case with certain types of sea grass. A list of caskets, urns, and shrouds that meet these requirements, whose producers have provided us with clean, fully disclosed material safety data sheets, can be found at our "find a provider" section.

Doesn’t cremation create a lot of pollution?

Cremation uses far fewer resources than almost any other disposition option but it certainly has an environmental impact. Cremation burns fossil fuels, and some older cremation facilities can use significantly more energy compared to newer ones. Mercury is also emitted when a person with dental amalgam fillings is cremated, but effective filtration devices that can fully mitigate mercury pollution are expected to be on the market in 2011. The GBC has recently begun working with the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) to promulgate standards for more eco-friendly cremation and will be encouraging ways of “greening up” the cremation process by making available to consumers options for recycling medical parts, choosing a more fuel-efficient cremation container, and participating in a disposition program that has some positive environmental purpose, such as creating marine habitat or generating money to facilitate conservation.

What is a home funeral and how does it differ from a home burial?

Home funerals, which allow for families to care for a decedent and all aspects of a funeral at home, were quite common in the US up until the mid-20th century. A family can facilitate a home funeral in almost every state, or do it with the assistance of a licensed funeral director. GBC-approved funeral homes must now accommodate families wanting home funerals. A home burial is an alternative to disposition in a cemetery. It's allowed by almost all counties, but most require a minimum number of acres and often the filing of a plat map with the planning department.

Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark is pleased to announce the opening of New Jersey's first Catholic Natural/Green Burial Section at Maryrest Cemetery in Mahwah.

The wild flowers and naturally occurring flora create a peaceful and serene setting for our Catholic Families that prefer an "Eco-friendly Memorial" or for those who may want an alternative to "cremation".

The Natural Burial Section has been developed to accommodate three shades of green:

  • Dark Green – are those who prefer to be buried in a burial shroud.
  • Medium Green – are those who prefer a natural biodegradable casket and want some type of memorialization.
  • Light Green – are those who prefer a natural biodegradable casket, some type of memorialization and embalming using natural embalming fluids.

The natural burial section at Maryrest offers families a "Living Memorial" in an undisturbed setting. Boulder memorialization is utilized to keep this area free of manufactured headstones. Pathway visitation is used to keep the plant and animal life thriving and undisturbed.

For committal services, a beautiful rustic Amish Gazebo overlooks the entire area.

As a final touch to this unique section, a life sized statue of St. Frances taming a wild wolf is set to be installed soon.

For more information or a free tour of the Natural/Green Burial Section, please stop by or call us at 1-866-Pre-Plan, (866) 773-7526 today.