How to Start Green Burial Business

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Couple holding hands at a funeral.
Couple holding hands at a funeral. (Image: kzenon/iStock/Getty Images)

Green burial, also called direct burial, involves the preparation and burial of a body in a simple, biodegradable container without the use of chemical preservation. This process is gaining in popularity as a natural and environmentally conscious way to commemorate the end of a loved one's life. A green burial business has the potential to be even more profitable than a conventional funeral home or cemetery, since green burial eliminates the need for heavy concrete vaults, expensive embalming chemicals, and specialized embalming instrumeents.

Things You'll Need

  • Land for Green Burial Ground
  • Locally-Required Permits and Licenses for Funeral Home or Cemetery
  • Legal Advice
  • Funding

Learn all you can about green burial. The Green Burial Council (see Resources) offers detailed standards for natural burial grounds, conservation burial grounds, and hybrid burial grounds, and a list of news articles pertaining to green burial. Many of the news articles talk about the public's mounting interest in having an environmentally responsible funeral and burial, and the need for more green burial sites.

Research legal requirements. The Centre for Natural Burial maintains a state-by-state list that identifies the codes pertaining to funerals, burial, and human remains, and some links to the statutes or regulations are included. Most states have a complete copy of their laws online, and you can find them through the Find Law website (see Resources).

Find a site for your burial ground. For a conservation burial ground, you must find a site that is large enough to be a full-scale conservation effort in its own right, or a site that is adjacent to an established protected natural area. Burial must only take place in areas of the land where the local ecosystems will not be damaged. The land for a conservation burial ground must be protected with a conservation easement, which will prevent future development of the site and ensure that it remains set aside as a natural area. Before the site is decided upon, the Green Burial Council recommends that an evaluation of the wildlife, plant life, and land itself (for drainage and erosion possibilities) be done to make sure burial will not cause harm to the wildlife or damage to the land.

Green burial grounds must preserve the natural features of the land, meaning that no artificial landscaping is done. This means no mowing, planting non-native plants or flowers, or large grave markers. Some green burial grounds may allow for ground-level markers, while others keep track of gravesites only by GPS. You will need to develop policies for families who may be visiting graves, and decide how you will mark graves, and how or if relatives are allowed to decorate them. You will also need to make a detailed plan for internment areas and trails through the areas.

Consider approaching local environmental groups regarding funding for the project. You may also consider speaking with local philanthropists interested in environmental preservation, or landowners who are possibly willing to donate land for the purpose of green burial. Conventional investors may also be a possibility, although since green burial is a relatively young industry, you may have difficulty attracting serious investors or securing a business loan from a bank. Always be honest about your intention to develop either a not-for-profit or for-profit green burial ground, and be prepared and ready to make a presentation to a variety of groups. Be sure your business plan, operation policies, and potential profit are clearly laid out in each presentation you make. Be persistent, and continue to present your plan until you find someone (preferably with money to invest) who shares your passion for environmentally conscious funerals and burial methods.

Tips & Warnings

  • Obtain all necessary permits and licenses, and approval of all needed government agencies BEFORE beginning burials.
  • Don't be afraid to seek legal help if needed. Some of the technicalities of obtaining a conservation easement, and establishing an endowment for maintenance of the burial land may be too complex to navigate without the help of a local attorney.

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