Eco-Friendly Burial Options

Many of us believe that, as stewards of our planet, we are responsible for limiting our ecological impact during life. Some even feel that this responsibility extends past the ends of our lives, including how our earthly remains are laid to rest.

Those who feel this way have a point: traditional burials leave a large carbon footprint in their wake. There are many ways traditional burials aren't eco-friendly. The construction and transportation of things like hardwood caskets and concrete burial vaults require burning fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Meanwhile, the use of chemicals during the embalming process concern some that those chemicals could contaminate the ground.

Thankfully, there are several eco-friendly burial options that can help minimize the impact of our deaths on the environment. Here are some of the most interesting.

Eco-Friendly Options

Not Using a Burial Vault

Traditional burials typically make use of a burial vault, which is a concrete liner that's added to the burial site. Yet the environmental impact of creating the cement that goes into that concrete and then the transportation of the raw materials to the burial site is high. One option is to forego a burial vault altogether, as this has a minimal impact on the ability to inter remains properly.

Using a Simple Wooden Casket

Traditional caskets can be pricey because of how labor-intensive they are to build, though they are worth their costs because of the effort and care involved in crafting them.

But this construction can involve the use of materials that are either unsustainable (in the form of exotic hardwoods) or non-biodegradable (like steel and other types of metal). Additionally, the construction and transportation of caskets create additional carbon emissions. A simple wooden casket, one created from a softer wood like pine and that doesn't use glue or varnish, is a much more ecologically friendly choice.

Using A Wood-Alternative Casket

Wood is the traditional choice for a casket, but it's not the only choice. Other biodegradable materials can be used to make a casket, with one example being simple reinforced cardboard. Another example of a casket that makes use of alternative materials to wood includes those woven from bamboo, wicker, willow, or any combination of those together. Plus, woven caskets can be a beautiful option because of their visual appeal.

Choosing a Burial Shroud

An even more eco-friendly option for burial is to forego a casket altogether. In this case, a simple burial shroud, created from biodegradable textiles, is an excellent option. There are many different types of fibers that can be used to weave a burial shroud, with the simplest being unbleached cotton. Other options, such as fabric made from bamboo, hemp, muslin, felted wool or muslin are also good choices. Shrouds can be as simple as necessary or as decorated as desired.

Being Buried in a Biodegradable Urn

Cremation has less of an environmental impact than a traditional burial, making it moderately more eco-friendly. While sometimes the loved ones of a cremated family member will choose to scatter the cremated remains or even keep them, it's possible to inter cremains as well. Choosing a biodegradable urn for cremated remains offers the opportunity for the deceased to become one with the Earth.

Being Buried in a Tree Pod

One of the newest and perhaps most interesting eco-friendly burial options today is that of a tree pod burial. While there are certain logistical challenges to this method, the idea is deceptively simple: the remains of the deceased are buried in a biodegradable pod. Then, a tree is planted above this pod, and as the body decomposes, the nutrients added to the soil by this decomposition will be used by the tree to grow. This then creates new life in the form of a tree.

Being Buried with a Seed or Sapling Urn

A more practical application of the idea of being buried in a tree pod, this method involves being cremated and then buried in an urn that is designed to hold a seed or a sapling as well. This combines the positive aspects of the two above eco-friendly methods while minimizing any issues. However, this method is best employed on private property, as there are few cemeteries that would allow a tree to be planted on its property.

Choosing an Urn Designed to Float and Dissolve in Water

For many, scattering cremated remains is preferable to burying them. This includes scattering at sea. One of the most eco-friendly ways to do this is to employ an urn that's designed from biodegradable materials to float on water and dissolve slowly over time. There are dozens of different types of urns that can be made in this way that won't contribute to water pollution after they dissolve, and their ability to float offers opportunities to hold a ceremony while placing the urn in the water.

Combining Approaches

It's imperative to keep in mind that many of the eco-friendly burial options listed above are not exclusive. You can combine some of these ideas together, such as electing not to use a burial vault and making the choice to use a simple, more biodegradable casket made from wood, cardboard, or woven materials. You can also choose to use a burial shroud in lieu of a casket in the same situation.  This approach is exemplified by burying cremated remains in a biodegradable urn that also houses a seedling or a sapling, as it combines two ideas in one.

Yet these aren't the only possible approaches to eco-friendly burials out there. Other possible options can provide better stewardship of the planet. One example is to donate your body to scientific research, as this helps future medical practitioners and researchers develop better treatments for illness and disease. This includes donating specific organs or tissue for transplant as well, which could go on to save countless human lives. This is, of course, a personal choice, and one you should always discuss with your loved ones. If you do want an eco-friendly burial, be sure to specify as much in your funeral planning.

With a network of hundreds of funeral homes and cemeteries, the team at is experienced in all aspects of eco-friendly burial options. Please feel free to ask us any questions, or to speak to someone at one of our locations.