4.5 Environmentally Sustainable Solutions

Green Burials

Natural, woodland, ecological, or green burials are environmentally friendly alternatives to the traditional methods of body disposal (i.e., burial and cremation) (Shelvock et al., 2021). This method is closely associated with traditional burials, but involves eco-friendly materials and adoption of more ancient practices (e.g., the use of burial shrouds). Bodies are not embalmed. They are buried in biodegradable containers/ caskets (e.g., bamboo, cardboard, paper, wool, willow, etc.) and/or burial shrouds, typically with no permanent markers such as had headstone (Robinson, 2021). One interesting variation is the use of a shroud or burial suit embedded with mushroom spores. The mushrooms help decompose the body, cleansing it of toxins that would otherwise end up in the earth (See Mushroom Burial Suit video below) (TED, 2011).

VIDEO: Jae Rhim Lee: My Mushroom Burial Suit

The following video outlines what Infinity mushrooms are and how they can be used to provide the most environmentally friendly burial method of dealing with bodies after death.


Green burials are done in such a way as to minimize any negative impact on the land or burial site (Haker, 2012). The idea is to return the “body directly to the earth…[as] humans have been doing since time immemorial” (Rehagen, October 27, 2016, para. 9) and allow the body to decompose naturally and nourish the earth. Such burial practices benefit the living by preserving green spaces (i.e., forests and open fields) and protecting them from future development (Freehill & Pantuso, 2019; Ottawa Citizen, February 2021). They are also a more cost-effective alternative to traditional burial (Duffy, 2021). There are a variety of other green burial type options including placing the body or ashes into a pod that will be used to grow a tree (see video below), with pod burial sites eventually becoming forests (Freehill & Pantuso, 2019).

Ecological Burial Pod turns Bodies into Trees

The following video explains how burial pod works.

VIDEO: Die As You Lived: What is a Green Burial?

In the following video Megan Spencer, co-founder of Green Burial Ottawa Valley, explains what it means to have a green burial and why more people are choosing to die as they lived.


While green burial practices are re-imagining traditional body disposal practices, aquamation is a funerary innovation (Robinson, 2021). Aquamation, also referred to as water, bio-, green, or flameless cremation, or resomation, uses the process of alkaline hydrolysis to mimic natural decomposition (Robinson, 2021). The body is placed in a sealed chamber that is filled with water and alkaline chemicals. Then heat, gentle water flow, pressure and/or agitation is applied. At the end, bone fragments are pulverized as with regular cremation. The process results in about one-third more cremated remains, that can be returned to the family (CANA, n.d.-b). Alkaline hydrolysis is a much greener process than traditional fire-based cremation. There is no release of chemical compounds or carbon emissions during the process, it requires far less energy, and allows for the safe disposal of mercury from dental fillings (Shelvock et al., 2021).

VIDEO: Bodies Dissolve in Water

The following video outlines the process of high and low temperature alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation as a method of body disposal.

Click the following links to learn more about green deaths:

The Green Death: How Environmentally Friendly Options Are Changing The Way We Bury Our Dead

Return to Nature


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On Death and Dying (Original) Copyright © 2022 by Jacqueline Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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