Frequently Asked Questions
What is green burial?
A green burial is a traditional alternative to conventional burial that enables your body or your loved ones' bodies to complete the cycle of returning to earth. A green burial restricts the use of chemical preservatives and potentially polluting resource intensive materials in the grave.
What kind of casket is used in a green burial?
The body may be encased in a biodegradable coffin (often made of untreated soft wood), or a cloth shroud, and then lowered into a grave without an outer vault or container that would prevent soil contact. Conventional caskets are the main pollutant source at graveyards, and casket manufacturers are listed on the EPA’s top hazardous waste generators
How many others can be buried in the same location that I choose?
The number of burial plots at each property will depend on the characteristics of the land and our individually determined preservation/conservation requirements. Still, Natural Passages properties limit burials to a few hundred per acre—far less than the nearly 1,000 burials per acre in conventional cemeteries.
What makes Natural Passages properties different from others?
What truly sets us apart is the fact that we have over 20 years of experience in the field of land conservation—and we've partnered with a team of knowledgeable experts in the green burial movement to deliver you guidance and support you can trust, no matter where you live or which location you choose for your final resting place.
Does conservation burial cost less than conventional burial?
Yes, green burial practices eliminate the costs of elaborate hardwood or metal caskets, concrete vaults, and embalming. Still, there are many variables including the type of memorial service, rituals and materials you may wish to use. The cost of the plot at a natural passages site is for the conservation and restoration of the property. Contact the individual site for pricing information.
What about cremation? Can we scatter our loved one's ashes at a Natural Passages property?
Natural Passages properties will accept your loved one's cremated remains and many have designated interment and scattering areas especially for this purpose.
Why don't you permit embalming?
Conventional embalming fluid is usually comprised of the chemical formaldehyde, which has been proven to pose health risks, and is recognized as a carcinogen in certain states. A study by the National Cancer Institute released in late 2009 revealed that funeral directors have a much higher incidence of myeloid leukemia. As for its perceived need, it only prolongs decay slightly, but it includes additives to help provide skin tone and color to the deceased for viewing aesthetics. When used it requires the removal of various parts of the body, which often then don’t make it to the grave. There are other alternatives to preservation, the most effective being keeping the body cold.
What does it mean if a cemetery is Green Burial Council certified?
According to the Green Burial Council, GBC certification allows consumers to be able to distinguish between the three 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 protect a local ecosystem to prohibitions against the use of monuments that would negatively impact a view shed.
Will placing a body directly in the earth pollute it and ground water?
Studies have shown that conventional cemeteries often create high levels of toxic metal (and limited chemical) contamination of soils and groundwater. The contaminants come primarily from the caskets, from wood preserves, paints, and varnishes, as well as actual metal fasteners and adornments, and to a lesser degree from embalming fluids. If bodies are buried in biodegradable materials in areas of good soil and ecology, the existing soil chemistry, microbes, plants, and soil critters will quickly decompose the body and use it to foster new life. Studies have shown that viruses and bacteria present in a body are usually retained in the immediate soil and have limited persistence, if any. In addition the low burial density and rate allow nature to use and neutralize anything of concern. However, it is important to not bury in flood plains or areas with shallow water tables. While regulations vary by location, as a precaution, and for peace of mind, we follow the setback requirements for domestic septic systems.
What are my funeral options?
Natural Passages conservation burials can be compatible with virtually any type of funeral service, at your place of worship, a funeral home, your personal home, or onsite. We can help direct you to some resources if you would like more information on options.
How do I know that a particular product is suitable for a green burial?
The Green Burial Council 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. The GBC also requires that these products not be made from materials harvested in a manner that unnecessarily destroys habitat. A list of caskets, urns and shrouds that meet these requirements, whose producers have fully disclosed material safety data sheets, can be found at the Green Burial Council's Finding a Provider section. Individual burial sites will also have a list of approved items, and possible local sources.