ParentCare » Vol. 40

Everything is going green even funerals

By Stephen Gemelli

Everywhere you turn, people are talking about going green. We recycle grocery bags, we turn newspapers into fire-pit logs, we catch the rain for our gardens, we (or at least my house) put our recycle bins out every Monday for the city collection. But what about going green at a funeral?

There have been articles written about the green funeral movement; however, many people still don’t understand what a green funeral is all about. I want to take a moment to give a brief overview of what a true green funeral is.

Green FuneralA true green funeral is one where there is no embalming and the body is placed in a casket that is biodegradable (a plain pine box or wicker basket) and then placed into the earth without any cement vault to encase the casket. A green funeral has been the choice of Orthodox Jews and Muslims for centuries. Usually, there are no calling hours with an open casket and the burial takes place rather quickly. A green funeral isn’t for everybody. Many families still find it important to have calling hours and a funeral service with a traditional burial. It is also difficult to find a cemetery in our area that will allow a green burial; there are some around, just not many … yet.

I’d like to point out that many families are already choosing a greener way having a funeral. More and more, families are accepting the idea of cremation. Cremation is an alternative to the green burial. Cremation reduces the human body to inorganic bone fragments that are then placed in an urn and buried at a cemetery or scattered, according to the family’s wishes.

Cremation still allows a family to have calling hours with an open casket, or even an urn, at a funeral home or place of worship. Cremation allows a family to bring its loved one’s body to church for a funeral, and rather than go to the cemetery, the funeral home takes the person to the crematory, so that cremation can take place.

Green FuneralWhere is the “green,” you might ask? A family needs to choose a casket that is combustible, or it can rent a casket for calling hours and the funeral. If the family buys a casket, it is cremated with the person inside; if the family chooses to rent a casket, the inner liner box is removed, and that is what is cremated. Once the cremation takes place, the family can choose what it wants to do with the urn. The “green” comes into play because the family can put more urns into a cemetery plot than caskets, and in fact, many cemeteries have specific urn gardens and niches in mausoleums, and therefore, are using space more wisely.

Some families will choose to scatter cremated remains in a garden or a lake or ocean. Many companies are making bio-degradable urns of paper mache or sea salt. These types of urns will allow the person’s remains to return to the earth in an earth friendly way … earth to earth, ashes to ashes.

Your funeral director can guide you in making greener choices. Talk about it; you have many choices.

Stephen Gemelli is the general manager and director of Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel, 370 Plantation St., Worcester. For more information, visit or call (508) 754-0486.

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