Casket cost, flower disposal, embalming, grounds maintenance and other processes of the standard funeral can be one of the most costly expenditures for a grieving family. The impact on the environment can be just as devastating since the entire funeral process uses caustic chemicals, expensive resources and gasoline for transport. Today there are companies that want to make the funeral experience more green and less expensive. According to funeral plan specialist, Golden Charter, people are increasingly adopting these burial alternatives and processes, finding that “greener” and “cleaner” is a logical and more environmentally sound funeral plan.

Burial at Sea

Burial at sea is a time-honoured tradition for Navy veterans but that doesn’t mean they are exclusive to this type of internment. Anyone can be buried at sea with relative ease, especially if you live near the coast and wish to participate in the ceremony. Costs for burial at sea start at around $100, making it very affordable. Biodegradable containers and traditional shrouds are used, causing a low impact on the environment. GPS coordinates are readily offered to the family if they wish to revisit the site.

Some companies provide the mix of ashes of the diseased into concrete blocks for the purpose of creating artificial reefs. The Georgia-based company, Eternal Reefs, provides this service. The concrete blocks are shaped in the form of large porous balls and then lowered into the ocean. The “reef” balls provide habitat and shelters for fish and other marine organisms. The larger concrete structures can hold up to four family members. Grieving family members are allowed to witness the lowering of the reef ball. Personal burial plaques are generally included in the cost. This burial practice helps improve the environment by introducing new life into a sparsely populated marine area.

Alternative Caskets

Casket construction is a laborious process that involves the use of exotic woods, metals, paints, lacquers, plastic, caustic sealers and other components. Most of these products have adverse effects on the environment, especially the metals, chrome surfaces and fasteners which are not wholly biodegradable. Families can use some investigation and planning to find natural casket alternatives which are made entirely of organic wood products. For example, the Natural Burial Company provides caskets that are made of economically produced pine and equipped with rope handles. The pieces are comprised of tongue-in-groove joints and all the wood is untreated so nothing harmful enters the earth. The company also provides caskets woven from wicker, willow, bamboo and sea grass, naturally occurring plants that degrade safely into the soil. The costs for the alternative caskets are well below the average funeral cost for the standard models.

Persons interested in utility will find that caskets are now functioning as double-duty furniture pieces. Bookcases, coffee tables and entertainment centres can be used in the home, but due to their unique construction, they also serve as internment vaults when needed.

Natural Burial

Although the idea originated in England, the trend of natural burial is becoming more popular in the United States. Natural burial cemeteries allow only burial shrouds of biodegradeable material, discouraging the use of wooden coffins and crypts. A few of the natural burial parks do not allow embalming since the chemicals can eventually leach into the soil. Grave markers are constructed of natural flagstone and they are often planted in groups to minimise the human presence. Caretakers are restricted from using heavy fertilisers and pesticides to avoid watershed contamination. The process costs less because the grave site does not need the costly upkeep and a traditional coffin is not used. The cemetery has a layout that mirrors a natural setting which does not advertise a human presence.