More families are considering natural burial these days, after rethinking traditional options that have been in place for over a century. If you’re wondering about the benefits of natural burial, and why some prefer it over traditional burials, here’s what you need to know.
What’s Wrong With Traditional Burial?
Typically, American families choose traditional burial for their loved ones, simply because it’s been the most popular option for more than a century. Traditional burial involves preservation of the body using chemicals known as embalming fluids. It also involves burial in a casket that’s placed inside a vault. There are in-ground vaults and vaults that are located in mausoleums. Both are designed to protect the sealed casket from elements such as moisture and dirt.
Some people believe that the traditional method of preparation and burial is not sustainable. Embalming fluids are considered toxic to the people who work with them and also to the environment.
Meanwhile, caskets can be considered resource-heavy because they’re made of metal or precious woods. Vaults, made of concrete, also require considerable resources. Finally, even a headstone or monument could be considered a draw on resources that could someday become scarce. Even without the scarcity, the mining and transport of materials like granite, which is used on many headstones, takes precious resources in the form of energy consumption.
Because of these reasons, natural burials offer many advantages.
What is Natural Burial?
Natural burials are beneficial because they eliminate all the concerns that many people have about traditional burial. The guiding principles of this type of burial are concern for the environment and oneness with the environment. Whether it’s preservation of habitat, conservation of resources, or protection of worker health, natural burial upholds environmental standards that resonate with many of today’s families.
It should be noted that the term “green burial” is sometimes used interchangeably with “natural burial,” however these methods of burial are slightly different. “Natural Burial” strictly refers to the burial process whereas a “green burial” is the burial process as well as the cemetery in which the burial occurs. In order to qualify as a green burial, the cemetery where the burial occurs must meet certain eco-friendly criteria. A “natural burial” can take place in any type of cemetery.
Natural burial advantages are derived from the overriding importance that’s placed upon making as small an impact as possible when it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one who has passed away. For example, natural burial does not involve using formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that poses health risks to the people who work in funeral homes. Instead, non-toxic materials are used for sanitation and preservation. Among these are essential oils, which are also biodegradable as well as non-toxic. Here are some other natural burial advantages.
Natural burial also means that the loved one is closer to Earth, a part of the earth, with no concrete vaults or metal caskets separating the person from nature.
What are Some Natural Burial Advantages?
Avoiding toxins in the workplace is just one benefit of choosing natural burial. Here are a few more:
- Conservation of Metal Resources. The casket you choose can also make a difference when it comes to the environment. Lots of caskets are made from metal. A commonly-used casket metal is steel, which is known to be incredibly resource-intensive.
- Conservation of Precious Wood Resources. Traditional burials that involve a wooden casket are also resource intensive, too. Precious woods like Mahogany and Cherry are often used. These furniture-quality wooden caskets do not fulfill “green” initiatives and are therefore considered to be resource heavy. Natural burials, on the other hand, do sometimes use wooden caskets, but they are designed to be highly biodegradable. These materials include bamboo wood and rattan (wicker). Some are made of materials that are even more easily broken down in the earth, such as cardboard or silk.
- Reduction of Carbon Footprint. Cremation is another burial option that uses fewer resources than a traditional burial, though it too can be unfriendly toward the environment. The process requires a significant source of fossil fuels, so energy consumption is high and there is the concern of increased carbon emissions.
- A Safer Environment. The production of concrete and steel, their transportation to a burial site for vaults and caskets, the production of embalming fluid, and the process of cremation all contribute to noxious fumes and carbon dioxide, all of which are not only bad for the environment but bad for people who live in proximity to areas of production.
- Conservation of the Natural Habitat. Natural burial means someone is buried in a way that they naturally return to the earth. Hence, there is no gravestone and the land can be returned to its natural state. Flowers can be planted, forests can thrive, and the view for surrounding properties remains unobstructed. What’s more, the land that’s used for natural burials can remain natural and beautiful forever with a conservation easement.
- Sense of Control Over Your Own Body. Many see the natural burial movement as an extension of the natural birth movement. Both can be considered ways of being more in control of your body during a natural phase of life. Some people even believe that embalming is disrespectful to the human body and feel that a natural burial is more in keeping with their views.
Who Usually Chooses Natural Burial?
Natural burial has always been around, but in more developed countries it was quite rare until the early 1990’s. That’s when, in Britain, there was a resurgence of interest in natural burial. The movement started when British cemeteries became crowded and people became aware of the limitations of land resources. As large as Britain may be, it’s still an island, where land is precious. Here in the United States, we may have more land, but there are still limits to the acreage that can be dedicated to burial in the traditional methods.
The early movement also came to be associated with a certain mode of spirituality. Those who chose this method of burial were people who had been deeply connected to nature on a spiritual level during their lives. While that association is still true, there are lots of other reasons to choose natural burial.
Anyone who understands the benefits of natural burial is likely to consider this option. From people who lived a life close to nature, to people who made a stand against the destruction of the environment in some way during their lives, to people whose families desire a more purposeful burial option, natural burial makes sense for all kinds of people and their families. If you’d like to get more information on natural burials, we have lots of online resources. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions. We’ll help in any way we can!