Green Burial Services as a Sustainable Livelihood

Green burial is done without embalming so bodies can naturally recycle. Plain caskets instead of metal caskets, concrete burial liners or vaults are used in a cemetery without tombstones. Historically over the millennia cultures and communities have buried their dead in many ways. For example, burial in the United States was without toxic embalming for nearly 300 years.  In ancient times, the Egyptians embalmed their dead kings, placed them in elaborate sarcophagi, and buried them in massive vaults. Less affluent families – the 99% of their time -wrapped their loved ones in a skin or a cloth and laid them in the ground.  While green burial saves survivors money, its rationale goes beyond financial considerations.

Among the many drawbacks to modern burial practices (and many ancient ones as well) is the rate of decomposition. Buried in a relatively simple wooden coffin, a body may take decades to return to the earth. Green burials provide a solution to this by using pressboard or cardboard coffins and having inter­ment in open fields that reduce the decomposition time to fewer than eight­een months.

Burials are regulated in most jurisdictions, and the services of a licensed funeral director are often required. The green bur­ial movement has already given rise to large operations that offer fairly tradi­tional services of a coffin, a memorial, an actual burial, or cremation. There is, however, room for people interested in providing a necessary service to people at their most vulnerable.

If green burial services appeals to you as a livelihood, the services you provide directly, and the ones you refer mourners to, determine some of the skills required for this field. If you’re a funeral director, usu­ally licensed but always trained, you will be called upon to transport the deceased, prepare the body for burial, secure the selected burial container, over­see the process from beginning to end, and address the needs of the mourners.

If you’re not a funeral director, there is a role for spiritual directors or celebrants. As a spiritual advisor to those who have lost a loved one, you will need to guide mourners through the process, perhaps lead the memorial service, and provide links to other service providers.

Becoming a spiritual advisor may require little or no investment where a funeral director is a licensed, trained individual with a place to conduct his or her business, including taking care of the deceased..

Green burial service providers need to be able to feel empathy, express sym­pathy, and simultaneously transact business. The complex feelings of survivors will give you much to respond to and much to manage. Social workers and those with similar skills will find themselves comfortable providing the emotional support needed for this career. Physician’s assistants, registered nurses, physical therapists, and massage therapists bring skills that make them comfortable and confident around the human body

The potential rewards are not only financial but emotional as well and green burial contributes to communities’ sustainability because of its contribution to land restoration and conservation of resources.

Check these resources:

 Spiritual Directors International links to over 200 training programs.

The Green Burial Council 

For an initial free consultation to explore this or another sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.

Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome. If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.


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  1. Shroudwoman says

    While working at FERNWOOD cemetery (California’s 1st GREEN CEMETERY) in 2004 people didn’t want to be buried in caskets at all but preferred a natural shroud which biodegrades 3 times as fast as any casket, so I designed a constructed shroud that funeral directors or people having home funerals could easily wrap, carry, lift and lower. This prototype was used on the green burial episode of “SIX FEET UNDER” the HBO show about a family owned funeral home in their green burial episode in 2005. Since then our company KINKARACO-Green Burial Products ( has been providing our unique tested and trusted constructed shrouds to funeral homes and cemeteries in over 30 states and Canada.When we started there were 3 green cemeteries -now we know of 75 ( and counting! P.S. You only need a funeral director in 8 states by law to assist in a funeral :NY,NJ,CT,MI,UT,NE,IN,LA
    All the other allow for home funerals, family to transport body to crematory or cemetery, and provide paperwork, death certificates, etc. Thank you

  2. Rememberwell says

    Great article, thank you. I keep “green” resources on my website and Kinkaraco is on there, of course. Lots of great people around doing caring, honest work. It shouldn’t cost a million dollars to say goodbye respectfully.

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