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Green Burials in New Hampshire

Green Burials in New Hampshire

In recent years, the concept of green burials has gained significant traction as families seek more sustainable and environmentally conscious ways to lay their loved ones to rest. A green burial is a natural alternative to conventional burials. It focuses on minimizing environmental impacts by conserving natural resources, reducing carbon emissions, and preserving natural habitats. This guide aims to provide an in-depth understanding of green burials in New Hampshire and how they are becoming increasingly popular.

Understanding Green Burials

A green burial is designed to return the body to the earth so it will decompose naturally and contribute to new life. Unlike traditional burials, which often involve embalming, concrete vaults, and metal caskets, green burials use biodegradable materials and avoid chemical preservatives. This approach aligns with the practices humans have followed for thousands of years before the advent of modern embalming techniques during the American Civil War.

The Green Burial Council (GBC), a nonprofit organization, sets the standards for environmentally sustainable death care. According to the GBC, there were approximately 440 green burial cemeteries in the United States and Canada as of December 2023. However, there are likely more cemeteries that permit vault-less burials.

Key Elements of a Green Burial

  1. Biodegradable Burial Containers: In a green burial, the body is placed in a biodegradable shroud or a simple pine coffin, allowing it to decompose naturally. These materials include bamboo, hemp, organic wool, cork, willow, rattan, seagrass, banana leaf, and recycled cardboard.
  2. No Embalming: Embalming uses chemicals like formaldehyde, methanol, and benzene, which can have adverse environmental effects. Green burials avoid these chemicals, opting instead for refrigeration to delay decomposition if necessary.
  3. Natural Burial Sites: Green burials often occur in designated natural burial grounds, where the environment is preserved, and artificial pesticides are prohibited. These sites can be in woodlands, meadows, or conservation areas, enhancing the natural landscape.

The Rise of Green Burials in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, green burials are becoming more accepted and available. State laws mandate that each town provides burial space for its residents, creating opportunities for local cemeteries to offer green burials. Some cemeteries in New Hampshire that support green burials include:

  • Chocorua Cemetery in Tamworth
  • Laurel Hill Cemetery in Wilton
  • Monadnock Quaker Meeting in Jaffrey
  • Tamworth Town Cemetery in Tamworth
  • Richmond Cemetery in Richmond

Planning a Green Burial

Planning a green burial involves several steps that are similar to those of a traditional burial but with eco-friendly adjustments:

  1. Choosing a Green Funeral Home: Select a funeral home experienced in green practices. Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium is the only Green Burial Council-certified provider in New Hampshire and Vermont, offering green burial packages and support.
  2. Selecting a Burial Site: Identify a green cemetery or natural burial ground that aligns with your environmental values. The Green Burial Council categorizes these cemeteries into hybrids, natural burial grounds, and conservation burial grounds, each with specific environmental criteria.
  3. Committal Service: A green burial service can be deeply personal and participatory, allowing family members to be involved in various aspects, from preparing the body to filling the grave. This hands-on approach provides peace and closure in a way that conventional services may not.

Green Burial Products

The market for green burial products has expanded to meet growing demand. Approved caskets, urns, and shrouds are made from natural, biodegradable materials. Innovative products like the Infinity Burial Suit, developed by Coeio, use mushroom spores to aid decomposition and detoxify the body, representing a clean alternative aligned with green burials.

Green Cremation

While cremation might seem eco-friendly, traditional flame-based cremation consumes a lot of fossil fuel. An alternative, known as green cremation or alkaline hydrolysis, uses water and potassium hydroxide to reduce the body to bone ash with minimal environmental impact. This process significantly reduces the carbon footprint and energy consumption compared to traditional cremation.

Legal and Practical Considerations

Green burials are legal in all 50 states, though regulations may vary. It’s essential to work with a knowledgeable funeral director to navigate local laws and cemetery requirements. Embalming is not legally required, and private family viewings without embalming are permissible.

Cost of Green Burials

Green burials can be more cost-effective than traditional burials due to the absence of embalming, vaults, and elaborate caskets. Costs vary based on the burial site and services chosen Conservation burial grounds will potentially charge higher fees for land preservation.

Addressing Common Questions

  • Legality: Green burials are legal nationwide, but specific rules may vary by location.
  • Embalming: It is not required by law and is generally avoided in green burials.
  • Animal Disturbance: Proper burial depth prevents animals from disturbing gravesites.
  • Water Quality: Green burials do not harm water quality due to natural soil filtration and the absence of toxic materials.

Green burials offer a meaningful and eco-friendly way to honor loved ones while contributing to environmental conservation. Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium remain committed to providing families with the guidance and services needed to plan green burials that reflect their values. For more information or to discuss green burial options, please connect with us.

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