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When Graves “Go Green”

Published: August 27, 2020

Eco-friendly living is not a passing trend, but a core tenant in our society. “Green” practices are no longer limited to “tree huggers”—a term so outdated, you hardly hear of it these days. We’re seeing this movement toward sustainability not only in how we live, but how we die.

As we continue to examine ways to be more conscious of the environment, many are considering the impacts of traditional burials, opting instead for “green” internments.

What is a “Green Burial?”

At Fairway Memorial Gardens, we are proud to offer green burials in accordance with criteria from the Green Burial Council, a nonprofit organization that provides guidelines and certifications to cemeteries looking to offer green burials. The benchmarks for most green burials include:

  • Avoiding embalming and/or cremation to be considerate of chemical waste and emissions
  • Foregoing grave vaults
  • Choosing biodegradable caskets or urns

But it doesn’t stop there. Green burials carry no set definition and can be personalized. This can mean anything from being wrapped only in a cotton shroud before burial to opting for encasement in a tree pod. (We have not received any requests for those yet, but they’re pretty revolutionary.)

A New Mindset, Not a New Practice

Many “green” practices, particularly the lack of embalming and the desire to decompose into the earth, are commonplace for certain cultures and religions. After all, embalming usually isn’t necessary, and tools like dry ice and specialized freezers can easily replace the need to embalm.

Others may feel it reflects favorably on the personal intention of the individual. Perhaps you like the idea of “returning” to the earth and opting for a minimalist burial, or maybe you want your grave to contribute in some way to land conservation—in the end, what matters is intent.

Here to Stay

We understand the concern for environmental well-being and sustainability, and the demand isn’t letting up anytime soon. According to a recent survey from the National Funeral Directors Association, over 51% of Americans are interested in exploring green burial options.  

We are fortunate to live in a time of rising awareness concerning the future of our planet. Gone are the days when talk of being “green” was not a mainstream, household conversation, and the conversation is evolving every day. It is also a new frontier for the funeral industry, one Fairway Memorial Gardens is happy to embrace.

Local Cemetery Among First to Offer “Green” Burials

Eco-friendly living is no longer a passing trend, but rather a a mainstream lifestyle many try to emulate wherever possible. But what about eco-friendly dying?

According to a recent survey from the National Funeral Director’s Association, over 51% of Americans are interested in exploring green burial options. These include:

  • Foregoing embalming and/or cremation to be considerate of chemical waste and emissions
  • Doing away with grave vaults
  • Opting for biodegradable vaults and caskets

Despite their growing popularity, the funeral industry has yet to keep up to meet demand, with only around 150 cemeteries nationwide offering eco-friendly internment options. Furthermore, as of now, there is only one nondenominational cemetery in South Florida offering green burials.

Fairway Memorial Gardens opened in 2017 on the former grounds of the Crystal Lake Golf Course in Deerfield Beach. The cemetery’s owner, Keith Epstein—a certified funeral director—offers these options to both cater to consumer demand and acknowledge shifts in collective consciousness regarding how we approach death and dying from an environmental context.

“Gone are the days when talk of being ‘green’ was’t a mainstream, household conversation,” said Epstein. “Therefore, it should be understood that green burials are not simply a passing trend, but a new frontier for our industry.”

Furthermore, as we continue to monitor the effects of COVID-19, many governing bodies are pointing to the safety that the hands-off nature of green burials tends to provide.

If you are interested in learning more about green burials, their (lack of) environmental impact, and the unique challenges and opportunities they present for the funeral industry, please let me know. I would be happy to arrange an interview with Mr. Epstein.


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