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Is green burial an option in Maine?

Is green burial an option in Maine?

By Lauren Weliver

One of my concluding questions during initial estate planning meetings is whether the client has any preferences for the disposition of their remains after death. For a long time, it was a binary choice without much discussion: burial or cremation? Burial usually referred to a traditional burial, where the body was embalmed and the casket buried with a vault to keep the cemetery grounds flat.

Increasingly these days, however, clients want to discuss “green” funerals and whether that’s a viable option in Maine.

What is a green burial?

Green funerals are typically burials that do not involve the use of chemicals or concrete. Those in favor of this form of disposition point to the environmental hazards that toxic embalming fluids and non-degradable grave liners, like vaults, pose to the earth. Burials are favored over cremation because of the high amount of energy used in cremation and the harmful emissions that result from the process.

In a green burial, the body is placed in a biodegradable container, like a pine casket or a natural fiber shroud, and often a natural marker, like a stone from the property or a plant, is used to identify the grave.

What options are available to Mainers?

So, is this a viable option in Maine? Yes. At the time of writing this blog post, there are at least three green cemeteries in Maine, with more undoubtedly to come.

These options include:

If this is appealing to you, doing your research in conjunction with your estate planning makes sense because these options are not easy “apples-to-apples” comparisons.

Each cemetery has its own particular rules and protocols, like whether you can choose your plot in advance. For example, Baldwin Hill Conservation Burial Ground sells specific “interment rights,” which grants you rights to be buried within the cemetery, but not in a particular location.

Green burials may also require the assistance of a funeral home, who may need to care for the body until it is buried (keeping in mind that it will not be preserved by embalming fluids in the interim). So, I advise researching what funeral home may be able to assist with your intentions and making those arrangements in advance to make sure this is an actual viable option for you when the time comes.

After your research, when you have made your choices, memorialize these plans in your estate planning and let your loved ones know about them. Like all of estate planning, advanced funeral planning takes the burden off of those we leave behind and provides the greatest chance that your intentions will be carried out.