Exploding some myths about green burial

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about natural burial. Some of it is promulgated by the funeral industry; some of it is simply urban legend or erroneous but commonly held ideas. Let’s explode some myths:

MYTH number 1:

The law requires a concrete burial vault. Not true. Most conventional cemeteries do have this as a requirement, as part of their conditions of service, but for them it’s all about maintaining a flat surface for mowing (and about making a profit, as vaults can add thousands to the cost of a funeral).

MYTH number 2:

The law requires a body to be embalmedNot true. You can be chilled instead. A funeral director can do this for you in a big walk-in cooler, or, if you opt for a “home funeral,” you can use dry ice, gel packs, and so on to chill the body. (It is true, however, that a funeral home may require embalming – both for “viewing,” and also, again, as a profit-making venture.)

MYTH number 3:

You can’t be buried in a simple pine box or shroud (or straight in the ground, for that matter)Not true. You can be buried in a simple pine box coffin, or in a simple shroud, or on a trundle (a flat board coffin with no lid), or only in your street clothes, or for that matter, the same way you came into this world, if you wish. What are commonly considered “requirements,” even laws, are actually the regulations of individual cemeteries and funeral homes. Again, think “profit margin.”

MYTH number 4:

You have to use a funeral homeNot true (in most places). You can even act as your own funeral director in many states. In all, 42 states have no laws requiring you to use a funeral director or funeral home. You can even prepare a body and have services in your own home. Learn more from the National Home Funeral Alliance: http://homefuneralalliance.org/

MYTH number 5:

Animals will dig up the grave. Not true. Animals simply do not dig into graves. Ramsey Creek, a natural burial cemetery in South Carolina that has been burying human beings naturally since 1998, has a wild boar population as well as black bears, and they have never experienced any problems. This is one of those “old-wives-tale” myths popular in scary stories. Nature preserve cemeteries throughout the United States have virtually no issues with animals disturbing graves. Pioneers buried in cemeteries near wilderness areas did not experience grave disturbances from animals; why should we now?

MYTH number 6:

A natural burial will harm water quality. Not true. In England, where natural burial is prevalent, numerous water studies of ground water have indicated no deterioration of water quality. And, because green cemeteries don’t have run-off of fertilizers, spilled fuels or toxins, natural burial land usually produces cleaner water than urban, suburban, or agricultural areas. Soil is a remarkably good filter!

MYTH number 7:

Embalming preserves a body for all time. Not true. In fact, embalming only retards the decomposition process – for a few weeks or months at most. Embalmed bodies, even in hermetically sealed caskets and concrete vaults, deteriorate nonetheless.

–compiled from resources from the Penn Forest Cemetery and Piedmont Pine Coffins