Traditional Burials: A Harmful Impact on the Environment

Traditional Burials: A Harmful Impact on the Environment

Are you aware of the harmful impact traditional burials have on our environment? From embalming to caskets and concrete vaults, the practices associated with traditional burials can lead to pollution and issues. But fear not, there is an eco-friendly alternative that is gaining popularity: green burials. These burials utilize biodegradable materials and reduce the toxic load on our planet. Not only are green burials more environmentally friendly, but they also come with additional benefits such as lower costs, less toxic chemicals, and land conservation. With options like cremation, aquamation, human composting, and green cemeteries, green funerals offer a smaller footprint and encourage creativity. However, it's important to note that green burials may not be suitable for viewing the body or if transportation across state lines is required. Regardless, planning for a green burial is an important step towards leaving behind a of a more natural life and death.

Traditional Burials

Traditional burials have been the predominant method of laying our loved ones to rest for centuries. These burials typically involve a series of practices, including embalming, the use of caskets, concrete vaults, and headstones. While these rituals have long been seen as a way to honor and remember the deceased, they also have significant drawbacks that are increasingly leading people to explore alternative options.


Embalming is a common practice in traditional burials, where the body is preserved to delay decomposition. This involves the use of chemicals to sanitize and preserve the body, often including formaldehyde. While the intention behind embalming is to create a more presentable and lasting preservation of the deceased, it can have detrimental effects on the environment and pose risks for workers.


In traditional burials, caskets are used to enclose the body before it is laid to rest. These caskets are often made from various materials such as wood, metal, or even fiberglass. While they offer a sense of dignity and protection for the deceased, they can contribute to deforestation, the depletion of natural resources, and the production of greenhouse gases during their manufacturing process.

Concrete Vaults

Concrete vaults, also known as burial vaults, are commonly used to provide extra protection for the casket and prevent the ground from sinking. These structures are typically made from reinforced concrete and can have a significant environmental impact. The production and installation of concrete vaults require the consumption of large amounts of energy and resources, further contributing to pollution and ecological harm.


Headstones serve as a marker to identify the burial site and provide a place for family and friends to visit and remember their loved ones. However, the production of headstones often involves mining, which can lead to habitat destruction and environmental degradation. Additionally, the maintenance of headstones over time requires cleaning agents that can introduce harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil and groundwater.

Harmful Effects of Traditional Burials

While traditional burials have served as the customary method of laying the deceased to rest, there are several harmful effects associated with these practices that are important to consider.

Traditional Burials: A Harmful Impact On The Environment

Environmental Impact

One of the primary concerns with traditional burials is their negative impact on the environment. The use of embalming fluids, the production and disposal of caskets, concrete vaults, and headstones all contribute to the depletion of natural resources and contribute to pollution. Additionally, the land required for traditional cemeteries takes away valuable space that could be used for other purposes, such as agriculture or conservation.

Risks for Workers

The embalming process poses health risks for funeral home workers who are in direct contact with embalming chemicals. The formaldehyde used in embalming has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can lead to respiratory issues, skin irritations, and other health complications.

Traditional Burials: A Harmful Impact On The Environment


Traditional burials contribute to pollution through the use of embalming fluids and the manufacturing and disposal of caskets, vaults, and headstones. Embalming fluids, such as formaldehyde, can leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater. The production of caskets and concrete vaults also requires energy-intensive processes that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution.

Growing Popularity of Green Burials

As awareness of the environmental impact and health risks associated with traditional burials grows, there has been an increase in the popularity of green burials. Green burials offer eco-friendly alternatives that prioritize sustainability and minimize harm to the environment.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Green burials provide alternatives to the traditional practices by promoting practices that have a reduced impact on the environment. These alternatives include using biodegradable materials, minimizing the use of chemicals, and seeking out sustainable burial options.

Traditional Burials: A Harmful Impact On The Environment

Biodegradable Materials

In green burials, biodegradable materials are used instead of traditional caskets and vaults. These materials are designed to break down naturally over time, returning the body to the earth. This can include options like biodegradable cardboard or wicker caskets, which are made from sustainable and renewable resources.

Reduced Toxic Load

A major benefit of green burials is the reduced toxic load on both the environment and workers. By avoiding the use of embalming fluids and chemicals, green burials eliminate the risks associated with these substances. This not only benefits the environment but also ensures the safety and well-being of those involved in the burial process.

Benefits of Green Burials

Green burials offer a range of benefits that go beyond their eco-friendly nature. These benefits can make green burials an attractive option for those looking for a more sustainable and cost-effective way to lay their loved ones to rest.

Traditional Burials: A Harmful Impact On The Environment

Lower Cost

One of the significant advantages of green burials is the lower cost compared to traditional burials. Traditional burial practices often come with high expenses such as embalming, expensive caskets, and concrete vaults. Green burials, with their focus on simplicity and sustainability, can significantly reduce these costs, making them more accessible to a wider range of individuals and families.

Biodegradable Products

Green burials prioritize the use of biodegradable products, which not only benefit the environment but also ensure a more natural decomposition process. By using materials that break down over time, the body can return to the earth, completing the cycle of life in a more sustainable way.

Less Toxic Chemicals

The absence of embalming fluids and other toxic chemicals reduces the environmental impact and health risks associated with traditional burials. Green burials allow the body to decompose naturally, without introducing harmful substances into the soil or groundwater.

Land Conservation

Green burials can also contribute to land conservation efforts. Traditional cemeteries require vast amounts of land, limiting its use for other purposes. Green burial practices, including the establishment of green cemeteries, prioritize conservation and allow the land to return to its natural state, preserving it for future generations.

Green Burial Options

There are various green burial options available that cater to different preferences and beliefs. These options offer alternatives to traditional practices, allowing individuals to choose a method that aligns with their values and environmental concerns.


Cremation is a popular green burial option that involves the reduction of the body to ashes through intense heat. This method eliminates the need for embalming and traditional burials, reducing the environmental impact associated with these practices. The ashes can then be scattered or placed in a biodegradable urn.


Aquamation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis or water cremation, is an emerging green burial option that uses water instead of fire to break down the body. The process involves placing the body in a vessel filled with a water-based alkaline solution, which accelerates the natural decomposition process. Aquamation is considered more environmentally friendly than traditional cremation due to its lower energy consumption and lack of air pollution.

Human Composting

Human composting, or natural organic reduction, is a method that converts the deceased body into nutrient-rich soil through the process of decomposition. This unique approach allows the body to return to the earth in a way that nourishes the environment and supports the growth of new life. Human composting offers a sustainable alternative to traditional burials and cremations.

Green Cemeteries

Green cemeteries, sometimes referred to as natural burial grounds or conservation burial grounds, are dedicated spaces that adhere to environmentally friendly burial practices. These cemeteries often have strict guidelines to ensure sustainability, including the use of biodegradable caskets, absence of embalming fluids, and the preservation of natural habitats. Green cemeteries provide a peaceful and natural final resting place for individuals seeking a more eco-friendly option.

Advantages of Green Funerals

Green funerals, which encompass the various aspects of green burials, offer several advantages beyond their environmental benefits. These advantages contribute to a more meaningful and personalized funeral experience.

Smaller Environmental Footprint

With their focus on sustainability and reducing harm to the environment, green funerals have a significantly smaller environmental footprint compared to traditional burials. By eliminating embalming and the use of resources that are slow to break down, green funerals provide a more sustainable way to say goodbye to loved ones.

Increased Creativity

Green funerals often encourage creativity and personalization when it comes to funeral rituals and memorials. With fewer restrictions and a greater emphasis on simplicity, individuals have the freedom to create a unique and personalized farewell experience. This can include planting trees, creating artwork, or organizing outdoor ceremonies that celebrate the relationship between the deceased and their loved ones.

Limitations of Green Burials

While green burials offer many advantages, there are some limitations to consider before choosing this option.

Viewing Body

Green burials may not be suitable for individuals or families who wish to have an open-casket viewing. Without embalming, the body will naturally decompose, and this process may be challenging for some to witness. It is essential to consider personal preferences and cultural practices when deciding on the suitability of green burials.

Transportation Across State Lines

Transporting a body across state lines for a green burial can be complicated due to varying regulations and laws. It is important to research and understand the requirements of the destination state to ensure a smooth and legal transportation process. Consulting with funeral directors or burial specialists can provide valuable guidance in navigating these logistics.

Importance of Planning for Death

Regardless of the burial choice, planning for death is essential to ensure that our final wishes are respected and that we leave behind a natural life and death .

Leaving a Natural Life and Death Legacy

Planning for death allows individuals to leave a natural life and death legacy that aligns with their values and beliefs. By consciously choosing green burial options, we can contribute to the preservation of the environment and inspire future generations to prioritize sustainability in their end-of-life choices. Taking the time to plan ensures that our wishes are known and respected, giving us a sense of peace and reassurance about our final journey.

In conclusion, traditional burials have long been the norm when it comes to laying our loved ones to rest. However, as awareness of the harmful effects on the environment and workers' health grows, green burials are becoming a popular alternative due to their eco-friendly nature and numerous benefits. Green burials offer lower costs, the use of biodegradable materials, reduced toxic load, and land conservation. Cremation, aquamation, human composting, and green cemeteries provide options for those seeking a more sustainable final resting place. Green funerals have a smaller environmental footprint and allow for increased creativity in memorializing the deceased. It is essential to consider the limitations of green burials, such as the lack of open-casket viewings and transportation complications across state lines. Overall, planning for death is crucial to leave behind a natural life and death legacy that reflects our values and respects the environment.

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