Phaneuf is the only funeral home in New Hampshire and Vermont approved by the Green Burial Council™. We are proud to offer green burials to those who are interested in a more sustainable practice and those who wish to reduce their environmental impact.
What is a green burial?
A green burial, also known as a natural burial or earth burial is done with the goal of returning the body to the earth so that it can be naturally recycled through uninhibited decomposition. Green burials are intended as economically sustainable alternatives to traditional burial practices. In most cases, the body is not embalmed and is placed in a biodegradable container (for example, willow), then interred directly in a grave without a concrete liner.
The first green cemetery, Ramsey Creek, was opened in 1998 by Billy Campbell in South Carolina. Since then, an emerging new movement for simpler, more environmentally friendly burials has resulted in a variety of alternatives to traditional funerals.
Cremation is also considered a type of green burial. Although energy is consumed to burn the body, its footprint is so small and its byproducts so marginal that it is generally accepted as a green burial practice.
Why a green burial?
There are over 22,000 cemeteries in the United States alone. Each year we bury the following with our traditional funeral practices:
Caskets – 30 million feet of hardwood, 90,272 tons of steel, and 2,700 tons of copper/bronze.
Vaults – 14,000 tons of steel and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete.
Embalming Fluid – 827,060 gallons.
Over time these practices will prove to be unsustainable as more and more land is consumed to create cemeteries. And as more material resources, such as concrete and metals are buried in the ground along with our dead.
Cost is also a factor, considering the average cost for a traditional funeral is approximately $6500 to $8000. Green funerals cost substantially less, especially if the body is to be cremated. The family can also decide to spread the ashes spread instead of interring the body. We have the only green burial offering in the state of New Hampshire approved by the Green Burial Council.
The future of green burials
As the green burial movement continues to gain popularity, there are more and more green cemeteries appearing in the United States. Since 1998, the number of green cemeteries has gone from 1 to 12, operating in 10 states with 4 more are under development. We have seen an exponential increase over the last few years in green burials at our facilities. It is certainly clear to us that the green burial movement is here to stay.
Natural burials forego using formaldehyde-based embalming fluids and opt for a biodegradable casket in place of metal or solid wood. Currently, we offer a variety of services, including appropriate body preparation and a willow-branch casket that complies with green cemetery regulations.
Please note that if you are considering a green funeral, you are not restricted to green cemeteries alone; as long as you adhere to certain legal regulations, you may conduct a green burial in a standard cemetery as well. We are happy to advise you on this matter if you are interested.
Much like with a standard burial, we are happy to personalize any part of the service for you and your family.
Where can a green burial happen?
While this is still a fairly new idea for most, there are already a variety of green cemetery choices across the country. You might also consider a memorial nature preserve. As natural burials become more popular, many interesting ideas have been developed, including converting ashes into beautiful trees and even underwater burials!
Are green burials an option for me?
Green burials and green funerals are an option for anyone who might be interested. As our society begins to embrace death as a normal part of the life cycle, we are seeing a slew of literature, information and resources surrounding green options and how to pursue them. If you would like more information on any of the processes mentioned here or green burials, in general, feel free to contact us or download our green burials guide.