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What You Need to Know About Eco-Friendly Burial Options

October 1, 2020

Whether you choose a casket burial or cremation, there are several eco-friendly burial options that cause minimal environmental impact and help restore and conserve the environment. Keohane Funeral Home is proud to be one of three funeral homes in Massachusetts certified by the Green Burial Council to conduct eco-friendly burials.

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According to the Green Burial Council, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes green funeral options, an eco-friendly burial is a way of caring for the deceased that produces minimal environmental impact and aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduces carbon emissions, protects worker health, and restores or preserves habitat.

However, choosing an eco-friendly burial does not exclude any of the traditional funeral services, including private or public viewings, graveside burials or even cremation. At Keohane, we offer the full range of funeral services while honoring the choices of our families who choose to be environmentally friendly.

“We are privileged to work with families who wish to sustain the environment while honoring their loved one with all the funeral services necessary to put their loved one to rest with dignity and honor and deliver closure for the entire family,” said Co-president John Keohane.

Four Ways to Ensure an Eco-Friendly Burial

The Green Burial Council (GBC) proposes these methods for an eco-friendly in-ground burial:

  • Decline traditional embalming: Embalming slows the decomposition process and involves the use of formaldehyde, a toxic chemical that is now known to be a health risk for funeral workers exposed to it for prolonged periods. Families who desire a green funeral can opt for refrigeration or dry ice as a means of preserving a body rather than embalming. There are now several formaldehyde-free embalming fluids, including one made entirely of nontoxic and biodegradable essential oils, which has earned the GBC seal of approval. However, families do not have to forgo a private or public viewing for a green funeral. At Keohane, we offer the option of a public or private viewing without embalming or the use of only GBC approved post-mortem fluids.
  • No Concrete Vaults: Concrete vaults house caskets in the ground and help to maintain a level soil surface by preventing soil settlement, resulting in the manicured appearance of conventional lawn cemeteries. The production of concrete and its ingredients requires significant energy, resulting in the creation of carbon emissions. Concrete vaults create a barrier between the casket and the earth, slowing the natural decomposition process.
  • Use Non-toxic Burial Containers: Eco-friendly burials use non-toxic and biodegradable materials, including caskets, urns and shrouds, which must be constructed from plant-derived, recycled plant-derived, natural, animal, or unfired earthen materials, including shell, liner, and adornments.
  • Conserve Natural Habitat: Some cemeteries adhere to burial practices that restore or conserve plants, landscapes, and native materials, and use no pesticides in maintaining the grounds. They can also limit the types, sizes, and visibility of grave markers to preserve natural vistas. The GBC identifies three levels of green burial grounds – hybrid burial grounds, natural burial grounds and conservation burial grounds.

Eco-friendly Cremation

While cremation can be eco-friendlier than in-ground burial, cremation does have an impact on the environment, including the energy necessary to complete the process as well as the toxic chemicals that get released into the air. However, there are some eco-friendly options for cremation as well.

Bio-cremation uses 90 percent less energy than heat cremation and produces much less carbon dioxide. With bio-cremation, the body is placed in a special chamber of water where it is subjected to heat, pressure and potassium hydroxide, or lye. However, it does require about 300 gallons of water per cremation.

Other elements of an eco-friendly cremation include the use of environmentally friendly caskets that don’t release harmful chemicals into the air during the cremation process. Cremation urns can also be made of biodegradable materials such as Himalayan rock salt or cornstarch.

Following cremation, you can transform your loved one into a living tribute through a tree, plant or flowers with a biodegradable cremation urn. These living memorials bring great comfort, give back to the environment, and provide a peaceful, natural setting to visit and remember your loved one. Returning someone to nature allows your loved one to live on in a different way.

Green Certified

The Green Burial Council developed the world’s first set of sustainability standards and the first eco-certification program for funeral homes, burial grounds and burial products, and it has set the standard for green burial in North America.

Keohane Funeral Home is proud to be one of three GBC’s Green-leaf certified funeral homes in Massachusetts. Certification by the Green Burial Council verifies that the green or natural burial services being provided have been thoroughly vetted against stringent standards created by a team of environmentalists, scientists, lawyers, and representatives from the funeral industry.

For more information, the council maintains a list of all GBC certified funeral providers, cemeteries, and disposition products on their website.

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