The tradition of natural burials dates back to ancient times. Within the United States, most of the Native American Indian Tribes still practice natural burials today in the final stage of celebrating and committing back to nature. Over the past ten years, the term “Green Burial” has become a variation of natural burial. In the overall picture, green burials are traditionally what has always been done up until the past 100 years or so, when embalming became popular.
In a natural or green burial, the deceased is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting. A green burial doesn’t involve concrete burial vaults or airtight metal caskets. Any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material.
A green cemetery is a burial site that does not permit vaults, non-biodegradable caskets or embalming chemicals. It uses no herbicides, pesticides, or irrigation for maintenance of the cemetery grounds. Any material used at a green cemetery must meet the goal of replenishing the earth. Green cemeteries can provide more than just resting places that don’t pollute their surroundings; they can also benefit the earth by maintaining open space and by protecting natural habitats for both wildlife and native plants. In a green cemetery, traditional standing headstones or markers are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers.
While the use of outer burial containers is not required by federal or state law, it is required by many cemeteries. Currently, all the cemeteries in our area require the use of a grave liner or vault. Tradition and laws have kept green burials and green cemeteries from becoming widespread in Minnesota. At this time, there are no designated green cemeteries in our area.