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Most of us naturally tend to shy away from the idea of death—especially our own or that of a close family member. Conversations around dying can often feel uncomfortable, or even taboo. In fact, research indicates that over 1/3 (36%) of people aren’t comfortable bringing the subject up with a relative or close friend and 40% don’t know their loved ones’ wishes around dying (such as what their preferred type of burial might be).
Despite this hesitancy to broach the topic, death is something that all of us will experience as a natural part of life. Most of us don’t think twice about preparing for many other major life transitions. We meticulously plan and invest time and money into planning births, weddings, new homes, and retirement. Death, too, is a transition, but few of us actively prepare for it.
The truth is, consciously approaching death isn’t morbid—it’s just good planning. When you are able to put forethought and preparation into your final wishes and plan a transition you feel good about, it can become a more meaningful experience that brings peace to both you and your loved ones.
One way many people are choosing to leave a meaningful legacy is by opting for an eco-friendly, or green burial. In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into this emerging trend in funerary arrangements.
What is a green or eco-friendly burial?
Most people don’t think about the environmental impact that conventional funeral practices can have, but, according to green burial experts, each year in America, we bury:
- Over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid, which is recognized by the World Health Organization as a known carcinogen
- More steel than was used to build the Golden Gate Bridge
- Enough copper to wire 150 homes
- The same amount of reinforced concrete it would take to construct a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit
A green burial is intended to minimize environmental impact and conserve natural resources. Also referred to as a natural burial or eco-friendly burial, opting for a green burial allows individuals to prioritize simplicity and sustainability in their post-life plans.
Green burials typically cost significantly less than traditional burial options. They also have a tremendously positive environmental impact. Unlike burial in a conventional cemetery, natural burials avoid introducing pollutants into the environment.
For many people, environmental stewardship is a principle that holds great value throughout their lives. We strive to impart a positive impact, improve the future for our children, and leave the world a better place. Green burials allow people to continue this legacy after they’ve passed.
Opting for an eco-friendly burial not only helps protect the environment, but the deceased’s final resting place is made verdant by the burials, bringing families and friends closer to nature in the commemoration of their loved one’s life.
How does a green burial work?
The individual components of a green funeral will vary from person to person, but most share qualities geared toward reducing the negative environmental impact of end-of-life arrangements. Eco-friendly burials typically involve materials and storage containers that are biodegradable, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly by avoiding the use of:
- Embalming fluids
- Cement or metal coffin vaults
- Clothing made from certain materials
- Fuel, concrete, steel, or copper
In order to avoid putting toxic chemicals into the soil, traditional embalming fluid is not used in green burials. Instead, alternative chemical-free embalming oils are used, when needed. These essential oils degrade naturally without leaving trace chemicals behind.
Why opt for an eco-friendly burial?
Green burials may sound like a new-age concept, but in fact, most burials before the mid-19th century were natural burials. The motivation for selecting this type of burial vary for each individual, but the top reasons include:
- Cost-savings: Eco-friendly burials are less costly than traditional burials because you don’t need to purchase a traditional casket. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “A casket often is the single most expensive item you'll buy if you plan a "traditional" full-service funeral. Caskets are sold primarily for their visual appeal. Typically, they're constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass, or plastic. Although an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze, or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.”
- Environmental impact: For those who want to have a minimal negative impact on the environment after they pass, green burials allow the deceased to be buried with no toxic chemicals or other harmful materials.
- Spiritual significance: Many people feel a special, even spiritual, connection with nature. This approach allows the deceased to return to the earth naturally. Natural cemeteries and memorial parks nourish native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.
Making arrangements for your transition from life doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable process. In fact, planning ahead will bring comfort to your surviving family members who will not have to worry about your last wishes for being laid to rest.
Planning for the unexpected is one of the smartest decisions you can make in life. Whether you’re interested in an eco-friendly burial, or another option, having a life insurance policy can help cover the cost of funeral expenses—no matter what type of arrangements you wish to make.
Joan Cleveland, CLU, ChFC, REBC leads SWBC Life Insurance Company as President and CEO. With more than 30 years of experience in the life insurance industry. She holds her Agent licenses for Life, Accident, Health Insurance, and has multiple FINRA securities Licenses. Joan is a frequent industry speaker and media spokesperson. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Consumer Credit Insurance Association, the Texas Association of Life and Health Insurers, as well as the Life Insurers Council. In addition, she is chair of LIMRA’s Strategic Marketing Issues Committee.