Heading back to its roots, funerals and burials are developing a more green approach, saving consumers money.
The average cost of a funeral in 2009 was $6,560 without a vault, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). With a vault, you could be looking at $7,755. According to Joe Sehee, CEO of the Green Burial Council, you could be looking at anywhere from $7,000 to $13,000 with a vault.
“You want to spend time researching,” said Jude Collins, owner of the Duluth Casket Shop.
Collins said that the amount of time spent researching for a burial process should be equivalent to the research put into buying a car or house. She added that research can greatly reduce the headache of the process and added stress.
While traditional funerals can reach up to $10,000 and have an imprint left on us and the earth, green burials minimize both cost and imprints.
“You don’t need a vault, embalming, casket, or a marker,” Sehee said. “Without these, the cost goes down significantly."
Embalming is simply the process of filling the body with chemicals to allow it to be presentable at a funeral. Collins and Sehee both said that embalming is invasive and involves filling the body with chemicals that aren’t considered green.
Sehee said green burials consist of shrouds, caskets and plots, which save money. Collins added that the saved costs of a mortician and picking up the body add to a cheaper alternative to traditional funerals.
“Doing a green burial, you can save over half the cost,” Sehee said.
In addition to cost cutting, green burials offer minimal impact left on the earth.
“There are many shades of green which save money,” Collins said.
Green burials avoid the use of embalming, metal caskets, and other materials that would have an environmental impact on the earth.
“Green burials don’t emit carbon dioxide left from metal caskets, they don’t impact workers health from the embalming fluid which is toxic, nor do they make use of gas, fertilizers, or pesticides,” Sehee said.
Sehee added that there is no need for a wooden casket, and that a burial can take place with a shroud.
“A shroud is fabric that you wrap the body in,” Collins said. “There are different shapes, and all that has to be done is to overlap the legs, tuck in the sides, and stretch it across the chest and arms."
In addition to being green, Collins said shrouds are inexpensive and typically, a casket would not be needed. In fact, Collins uses wooden caskets, while Sehee still sees the imprint left on the earth through their usage.
The use of any of the above materials would affect the earth environmentally in some way and would not live up to green standards. Being able avoid these issues and to leave a minimal impact on the earth is what Collins refers to as “many shades of green."
Collins said that having “many shades of green” also leaves a minimal impact on consumer’s wallets as well. Something that Collins said she has noticed is that people are starting to become better informed about how they want to be buried.
“Green burials are growing,” Sehee said. “There are more than 300 sites in 46 states across the U.S.”
Sehee also said that green burials were the common type of burial prior to the Civil War, and that green burials are the most common type of burial across the globe. She said that after the Civil War, embalming became more and more popular, resulting in the emergence of funeral parlors and the more traditional funeral of today.
“You only die once," Collins said. "There are no dress rehearsals here."