The Los Angeles County Funeral Directors Association held a workshop in Arcadia this year on the topic of green burials. Green burial is an option that has been mentioned more in the media recently. Consistent with the "green" movement, green burials are considered natural, earthy, and ecologically friendly.
Woods-Valentine Mortuary can arrange for green burials aka natural burials, as can most local mortuaries. The philosophy is to "return" the deceased person's body to Mother Earth in as natural a manner as possible; "earth to earth, ashes to ashes . . . " The mortuary picks up the deceased person from place of death and places him or her in a thermal reduction unit (refrigeration), while the death certificate and other paperwork is being processed. The body is not embalmed, as to stay with the natural concept. The body is either wrapped in a cloth or dressed in something similar to a shroud.
The family can view the body for a short period of time at the mortuary, if they choose. They can also have a memorial service at a chapel or a graveside service at the cemetery. Caskets must be non toxic and readily biodegradable. A plain pine box, a wood casket without lacquer or a wicker casket is used. A person can be buried in a fabric shroud with no casket, as well.
The body is transported to a green cemetery or one with a green burial section. (Some Jewish cemeteries have green burial sections). Green cemeteries are in areas with natural habitat, trees, shrubs, lots of other foliage and wildlife. There is only one in Southern California, Joshua Tree Memorial Park in Joshua Tree and one in Northern California, Forever Fernwood Memorial Park, in Mill Valley. Markers or headstones are not generally allowed, but graves can be marked by stones or a plant native to the area. Again, preserving the natural habitat is a priority. No vaults are required or allowed.
The cost for burial in a green cemetery or section in California, is generally $5000.00 or more. In addition there are charges for removal from place of death, thermal reduction, dressing, casket, casketing, transport to cemetery, death certificates, etc.. The overall cost however, is usually less than for a traditional funeral with burial.
The Green Burial Council defines green burial as "an environmental burial, employing minimal environmental impact, legitimate ecological aims, and a conservation of natural resources. " Their "commitment is to save natural resources and preserve native plants and animals." For more information, contact The Green Burial Council. They are an organization that disseminates information about green burial nationally.