Other green burial alternatives include natural burials. Natural or green burials are the simplest way to put a corpse in the earth and let nature take over with little to no environmental impact, according to the film. This is achieved by placing a corpse, either wrapped in a biodegradable shroud made of cotton or unbleached bamboo, into a casket made of biodegradable materials such as seagrass or willow.
The casket is then placed in a shallow grave measuring three to 4 feet deep. Once buried, nature takes over, allowing bacteria and insects in the soil to naturally break down the body and casket over time. Can natural burials lead to water and soil pollution? Not likely, says Doughty.
A study published by the Pan American Journal of Public Health found that pathogens don’t survive very long in a dead body or the soil around it because a corpse buried in a shallow grave is exposed to oxygen more quickly, which accelerates the decomposition process.10
During decomposition, the body may heat up to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, killing most, if not all, pathogens present at death. Soil and water contamination has been observed, however, in conventional cemeteries as a result of the toxic chemicals used in the embalming process.11 The most significant difference between a conventional burial and a natural or green burial is the impact it has on our environment.
There are ways to make conventional burials greener with methods such as eco-friendly embalming and Earth-friendly caskets, but it’s all an attempt to make a destructive process a little bit better, says Doughty. More people are opening their minds to greener alternatives when it comes to death. For example, the Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center in Minnesota reports that when given the choice, 80 percent of people prefer a green cremation.12
If you really think about it, green burials are the ultimate way to give back to the Earth, which has supported us our entire lives, says Doughty, adding: “You eat plants and animals in life, and in death, they get to eat you.” In other words, with a green burial, the circle of life comes full circle at death.