Some People Think Green Burial Is

MYTH FOUR A Poor Use of Land, Cremation is "greener" than burial

In fact, green burial is an environmentally sensitive alternative to disposition through conventional burial or cremation.  By the early 1990’s, nearly 98% of all final dispositions in the UK were for cremated remains. While the carbon dioxide released through one adult cremation may seem insignificant relative to the carbon footprint created over a lifetime, the impact of cremation rises exponentially when the number of cremations taking place annually is in the hundreds of thousands. 


Environmentalists increasingly see cremation on this scale as contributing to global climate change through the release of carbon dioxide and other gases. Cremation rates are continuing to rise around the world, including here in North America, where up to 92% of dispositions (in Victoria, BC) are now by cremation.


Over the past few years, rapid development and urbanization across the UK was seen as encroaching onto undeveloped, and in some instances historically significant, natural landscapes. Environmental advocates sought a means to protect and conserve these landscapes from destruction, ideally in perpetuity. One response was to encourage and enable simple “natural burials” to take place on these lands.

By enabling this land use, the advantage of perpetual protection that is typically assigned to cemeteries could be extended to other areas. And by adding a green burial service option, the spin-off effect was a gradual decrease in the appeal and number of cremations taking place each year in favour of a more sustainable green burial alternative.   

Together, the principles of providing an environmentally sensitive alternative to cremation, and conserving, enhancing and conserving natural environments represent the foundations of the green burial movement.

The most basic green burial – with no embalming, using a biodegradable casket or shroud, and with direct earth interment – can, in the context of our collective carbon footprint, offer a far more environmentally sensitive alternative to disposition by cremation. 

Green burials in a dedicated cemetery section – or even better, in a “conservation cemetery” established exclusively for green burial – can, through higher densities, native plantings and appropriate environmental management offer a far greener choice than conventional burial, with embalmed remains, protective caskets and grave vaults, and high maintenance of ornamental landscapes. Green burial is, ultimately, an effective use of land, and the greenest end-of-life choice we can make.