green burial

Frequently Asked Questions About Green Burial

Have questions about green burial? Thanks to our friends at the Green Burial Association of Maryland (GBAM), we have some answers and steps you can take to support green burial!

What About Funeral Homes?

Part of the mission of the Green Burial Association of Maryland is to engage and educate funeral homes in Maryland about green burial as an option. Our goal is to reach out so funeral homes and cemeteries will be better informed and situated to offer green choices to interested Marylanders.

What If A Loved One Has Asked For a Green Burial?

Be sure the funeral director or home funeral guide understands that the body should not be embalmed, but rather preserved using other methods such as dry ice. The body will should also be placed in a non-toxic or biodegradable shroud or casket.

How Much Does A Green Burial Cost?

Funeral home and cemetery costs for a green burial, as for a traditional burial, are established by each funeral home and cemetery.

What are the Effects of Green Burial on the Earth?

Soil and medical science suggest that a body buried using green methods does not contaminate soil or water supplies as long as sound burial practices are followed. Green cemeteries will not contribute lawn-maintenance fertilizer or pesticide run-off to streams and the Bay. In a green burial the body returns to earth, adding nutrients to the soil and completing the natural cycle of life. For a comparison of the effects of Green and Traditional burial on the earth, please refer to Green Burial Council factsheet.

What About Cremation?

While cremation remains take up smaller space, each cremation uses the fossil fuel equivalent of a 4,800 mile car trip; crematory ovens are heated to 1,400-2,100 degrees for two to three hours. Cremations release greenhouse gases such as Co2 and sulphur dioxide, as well as mercury into the atmosphere. For these reasons, cremation is not in keeping with the desire to minimize our final impact on the environment.

What Steps Can I Take To Support Green Burial In Maryland?

– Call cemeteries and funeral directors and ask if they have a green burial option
– Public advocacy: Show up at meetings and legislative hearings where green burial is being considered.
– Make your wishes known to family members
– Pre-plan your funeral and burial options
– Become a member by joining the Green Burial Association of Maryland (GBAM) on our Contact page


Green Burials – Life After Death

Conservation burial, green, or natural burial is a way of giving back after death. Opting for a green burial, in conjunction with a land trust, or natural preserve, reduces the environmental impact that traditional burial methods can create. Using non-toxic, biodegradable materials reduce the carbon footprint we leave behind after we are gone and ultimately contribute to the ecosystem. “Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust….” – this is how civilizations have been caring for the dead for centuries, no metal caskets, no embalming with toxic chemicals, just honoring our beloved by returning them to the earth, and through their death will blossom new life.

The Huffington Post morning show – Rise has highlighted the green burial movement. To get more on this subject, go to the Huffington Post facebook page. green-burials-life-after-death


A Will for the Woods is a must see documentary!

This is an eye-opening, engaging film, that showcases one man’s commitment to change how his community thinks about modern day funeral methods and the impact they have on our environment. The documentary focuses on Clark Wang, a musician and psychiatrist, who has been battling lymphoma for the last seven years. He has come to terms with the idea that he will most likely lose his fight and his burial would be the final outcome. This has given him time to examine and reflect on how his own death would impact the environment. He decides that his final act will be one that will in his words “set a pattern” in his community of going back to “traditional and natural ways of handling our dead”. This is a must see documentary that will have you reflecting on what you want your legacy to be, how we in our own communities can change the way we care for each other in death as we have in life, and ensure that our passing will leave a positive impact on the world we leave behind.

A Will for the Woods – Official Trailer from A Will for the Woods on Vimeo.

Please visit the official website for all the directions on where you can find the film:

A note from the A Will for the Woods team:

“If you are outside the US and Canada, we anticipate that the online and DVD version of the film will be released around the entire world this April. However, the film is available everywhere for community screenings. Please visit the SEE page on our website to find out how you can bring the film to your area and discover all the countries we are already visiting this year, including Australia, South Africa, and the UK!

Love from the A Will for the Woods team,
Amy, Jeremy, Tony, and Brian”

Home Funerals  –  Reviving an American Tradition

Background and Benefits of Home Funerals Reviving an American Tradition

Until the late nineteenth century, Americans most often died, as they had been born, in their own homes, cared for by their family and community members. After a death, the family washed and laid out the body, dressed or draped it, and ordered the coffin from the local carpenter. Family and friends carried the coffin to the graveyard and often dug the grave themselves. Dying, like birthing, was integrated into living. Families caring for their own at death were able to take the time they needed and begin to heal as they engaged in these last acts of love.

Today we all have the right to choose natural death care and a home funeral for ourselves and for our loved ones. Family members are empowered to direct the arrangements and take the time they need to say goodbye. With the support of friends and community members, the family provides respectful and compassionate care of the body and may hold a ceremony or vigil in the intimacy of a home or nursing home. A more formal religious service may follow, before cremation or burial. Some funeral homes support family directed natural death care, by providing such services as transportation. Those who choose home funerals appreciate the freedom to honor their loved one in a uniquely meaningful way, to slow the pace, encourage participation of family and friends, control the budget and be environmentally responsible.

What is a Home Funeral?

A home funeral is a family or community-centered practice of after–death care in which members may play a key role in:

  • Planning and participating in after–death rituals or ceremonies, such as bathing, anointing, and draping the body to lie in honor for a vigil
  • Preparing the body for burial or cremation
  • Filing paperwork, including the death certificate and obituary
  • Transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation
  • Facilitating the final disposition, such as digging the grave in a natural burial ground
  • Home funerals may occur within the family home, nursing home or hospital.

The Value of Home Funerals


    • The true value lies in the time spent with family and friends in caring for a loved one.
    • When families are able to set the pace themselves it allows for a more authentic grieving experience, and promotes an organic emotional and spiritual healing.
    • Bringing family and friends into the safety and familiarity of a home where the deceased lies in honor reduces anxiety and normalizes this universal life passage.
    • Participation in the process of after-death care — washing and dressing the body, building or decorating the casket, planning a memorial or funeral service, taking care of paperwork, or organizing food and other household tasks — helps mourners find meaning and deep connection to each other and the deceased.
    • A home funeral provides children the opportunity to see death as a natural part of the life cycle and to learn how their culture marks the final passage.


    • A full-service contemporary funeral in the U.S. costs $7,755 (National Funeral Directors Association website, 2009), not including the burial plot, cremation fees, and other goods and services. By contrast, a family who chooses to care for the body, file the paperwork, and transport the deceased will spend a fraction of that cost.
    • The cost of a home funeral is often under $2,000.
    • Friends and family can construct their own simple coffin, decorate a cardboard cremation container in any way they wish or choose a natural fiber shroud.
    • A funeral home is required to accept any casket provided by the family at no additional charge.
    • In almost every state, a family member can act as the funeral director when a loved one dies. (Resource for all states: Funeral Consumer’s Alliance)


    • The National Home Funeral Alliance encourages environmentally respectful practices such as natural cooling methods (dry ice, Techni-ice gel packs) rather than embalming, which uses highly toxic chemicals.
    • Embalming is not required by law in any state and provides no public health benefits according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
    • Simple natural measures, easily performed by a family member, can preserve the appearance and sanitary condition of the body.
    • Green burial involves no embalming, no vault and the use of biodegradable caskets or shrouds. No state requires a coffin vault.
    • Natural burials can take place on private land (subject to regulations) and in any cemetery that will accommodate the vault-free technique.

For more information about green burial and for a list of certified green cemeteries in the U.S. please visit:

The Role of Home Funeral Guides

Home funeral guides do not conduct after-death care themselves, as is the case with licensed funeral directors. Guides teach, support, and advise families on how to carry out after-death care, and provide guidance in completing and filing legal paperwork. Their goal is to empower individuals to make their own informed decisions, employ basic traditional techniques, and let love be their guide in caring for their own at death. For information about home funeral guides in your area visit:

To download a PDF version of this article click here Background and Benefits of Home Funerals.