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Green Burial Info

We can help you understand green funerals, know your options, and answer any questions you have.

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Browse our listing of news, articles, and stories about embalming, green burial, and more.

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Read through questions that we've received and answered for other families.

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Green Burial Info

This is a list of green burial questions that have been answered. If you don't see your question - ask it.


Can I be buried on my 10 acres with a natural or green burial?

Good question! Having a green burial in your private property sounds very memorable and personal.

However, doing a private property burial isn't easy in Minnesota. Minnesota law states that "Burial of a body must be in a legally registered cemetery." You might be able to get around this requirement by establishing a private cemetery on your land, though. If you want to go down this path, there are a few bureaucratic issues to jump through:

  • First, check with your local zoning officials (city or county) to determine if there are any zoning laws that would prohibit creating a private cemetery on your land.
  • If the zoning laws allow a private cemetery, you will need to survey, map or chart your land.
  • You will then need to register your land with the county or town where your land resides.

Once you have established a private cemetery, there are not that many laws that pertain to the actual green burial. The only green burial law that we know of is that you must ensure that a non-embalmed body is buried or cremated within 72 hours from the time the body is released from the place of death, the coroner or the medical examiner. Also, you need a disposition permit (which details how the body will be disposed of) for all burials. See What are the laws about natural burial in Minnesota? for details.

Click here for more information.
 


Green Burial Cost

What is the cost of a Green Burial service in Minnesota?

Thanks for asking this question! This is an important question, and it is often not easy to find the answer since prices usually assume a traditional burial.

However, we at Gill Brothers Funeral Service and Cremation wholeheartedly support Green Burial. So, we want to ensure that you can have the Green Burial you want, guided by our expertise and extensive knowledge, at an affordable cost.

Towards that, we created the Simply Burial plan where, for $2000, you can have the basic necessities that you need for a simple earth interment in the cemetery of your choice. This includes:

  • secure and safe transport of the body to one of our three funeral homes
  • transport to the cemetery of your choice
  • the necessary legal paperwork
  • securing a required state burial permit
  • filing the death certificate
  • a certified green burial container

There are also a variety of add-on options you can choose from, ranging from additional services such as visitations and graveside services to obituary assistance.

For more details, see our Simply Burial package for a low-cost green burial.

We would love to talk to you about how you want to respect our environment - through life and beyond. So, feel free to contact us at 612-861-6088 or by using our contact form.


Can green burials be done at Minnesota's Fort Snelling National Cemetery?

We received a great question about burial in Minnesota's Fort Snelling National Cemetery:

"Can green burials be done at Fort Snelling National Cemetery? My mom wants to be buried next to my Dad and she wants a green funeral. Preferably, without cremation."

Fort Snelling does allow for Green Burials. So, you can have a natural burial that promotes composition with an emphasis on being environmentally friendly, including:

  • burial in a biodegradable casket
  • no burial vault needed
  • no embalming required. Keep in mind, though, that if you don't embalm, state law states that you must be buried within 72 hours of death.Since there are no casket requirements, so you could choose "natural" casket such as bamboo or even cardboard.

Note that remains must be put into a grave liner or grave vault. If no burial vault is selected, the cemetery will automatically provide you with a grave liner. The grave liner has holes, so it is a green as possible.

And, if you are a spouse of an armed forces member who is buried in a national cemetery, such as Fort Snelling, you can be buried with the Veteran. Burial benefits for spouses include burial with the Veteran. See US Department of Veterans Affairs - Burial Benefits for more information.

Gill Brothers have a long history of working with Fort Snelling Cemetery, and can help you coordinate a green burial at Fort Snelling. Please contact us with any further questions you might have.


 

Are there any new Green Burial sites being considered in Minnesota?

Yes. As seen in this video, an old abandoned landfill near Alexandria, Minnesota, approximately eighty acres, is now being considered as a prime spot for Green Burial grounds. With natural hills and the deep woods surrounding the property, this makes for a perfect setting. Once abandoned in early to mid 1980's, the only thing affecting this property is Mother Nature herself - and a wonderful job she has done! Everything about this area is breathtakingly beautiful and looks like the perfect place for life everlasting.

Watch as Minnesota Threshold Network members tour this possible Green Cemetary propery.

Click Here to See a Green Cemetery Possible Site in Minnesota


What is a tree funeral?

A tree funeral is a practice in China where a tree becomes a living memorial to the dead.

The green burial movement is not just for the United States. The Chinese have embraced the green burial movement as a way to make funerals more green - and to save costs. 

Towards this, China's Shanxi Province promotes "tree funerals". Families place the ashes of their loved ones in a bio-degradable urn next to a chosen tree. Both the container and the ashes, then, nourish the tree, so the tree becomes a true, living memorial.

This is a break from the tradition of preserving the ashes in non-biodegradable containers. This is also a direction towards reducing the typical, expensive Chinese funeral, where anywhere between the equivalent of $3,000 to $13,000 can be spent on a funeral. A tree funeral costs less (around $170), is better for the environment - and, it provides a feeing of the continuation of life.

This is an interesting intersection of cremation and green burial. If you want to bury ashes like this in Minnesota, feel free - just be sure that you show consideration when burying ashes. So, show respect for the environment and the people who visit the area, and be sure that what you do does not look like littering. 

John Muir (1838-1914), who devoted his life towards the preservation of the United States' forests, said that "Going to the woods is going home.". A tree funeral most certainly embodies this sentiment.  

Click here for more.


 

Where does a golfer want to go when they die?

To a golf course, of course!

Someone who has lived on the golf course can now be buried in a golf course. A golf course that is owned by Kenyon College in Ohio via a land trust is being turned into a golf course plus a green burial ground.

The natural burial ground will be a nature preserve, and will have native trees and grasses plus a water feature.

This adds to four other Ohio natural preserves, and is following a growing trend for natural burial grounds in America. We consider this a very promising trend, indeed.

Click here to read more.


 

What does a natural burial ground look like?

Natural burial grounds can look just like natural landscapes! For example, this video shows how Clandon Wood - Surrey Hills Natural Burial Reserve is a nature reserve. Towards that, it is inspiring - there is no cemetery feel with headstones in a row. Instead, it is nature at its finest - pure and calming. In other words, the gloomy blackness that we associate with death is turned into natural green.

Watch this beautiful and inspiring video to see how a natural burial ground can be rewarding, inclusive, practical, and cost effective. And, get a real view of how a natural burial ground can change our view of cemeteries and burial in general - a natural burial ground can be life and renewal through nature.

Click Here for a Video About Natural Burial Grounds


What do baby boomers want when they die?

Just as many of the baby boomers have gone back to more natural foods and living styles, baby boomers are looking at green funerals, so they can die with the same way they lived.

So, baby boomers are planning their burials to include no embalming, simple shrouds instead of caskets, burial in natural areas, and biodegradable urns.

Click here to read more.


 

What is the greenest thing you could do when you die?

You spend your life trying to be green. You recycle everything, you conserve as much water as you can, And you try in all ways to not pollute. Shouldn't your death represent how your life was lived?

The greenest thing you can do with your life is to have a green burial. Every year, over 100,000 tons of steel and 1,500,000 tons of concrete are used for traditional burials. Green burial promotes a more natural way for death.

This article overviews how people find peace and joy in green burials. The burials are in natural areas marked by simple stones or markers or even GPS. Caskets are made with biodegradable materials such as wicker, untreated wood,or bamboo. Graves are often filled in by hand. And seeds or even trees are planted to mark the burial spot. This is definitely a good read if you want more information about what you can do to be green - even after death.

Click here to read more.


 

Is embalming an option for natural burial?

If a family's wish is to preserve a body for a short time before burial, many choices are available. Dry ice and refrigeration are common options, but newer types of embalming fluids are becoming more biodegradable. Also, while over-exposure to the chemical preservative formaldehyde can be damaging over time, there is limited research on the effects of formaldehyde on soil and water.


Is 'flameless cremation' available in Minnesota?

Flameless cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, has been available in Minnesota since 2003, and has been used by the Mayo Clinic since 2006 for bodies donated for the study of anatomy.


What is 'flameless cremation?'

The process sometimes described as "flameless cremation" is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent, as opposed to standard cremation. This alkaline hydrolysis process also eliminates the release of mercury, which has been linked to cremation of a body with dental fillings. But there is some question whether "flameless creation" can be considered "green" when residual chemicals are typically drained into public waste-water treatment systems.


What does a green cemetery look like?

At green cemeteries -- or sections of cemeteries for natural burial -- you will likely see trees, shrubs and flowers planted on or near graves rather than headstones or other traditional markers. You may also notice less watering (grass sprinklers) and less-manicured landscaping. While less visible, another major difference is limited or no use of fertizilers and pesticides.


What type of coffin or casket is used for a natural burial?

Coffins of sustainable bamboo, willow, pine, wicker, particle board or sturdy cardboard are considered more natural than heavier woods and/or metals used for traditional caskets. Many families also consider natural-fiber burial shrouds. These options are readily available at Gill Brothers.


How do cemeteries do natural burials?

In general, green graves do not use a burial vault or outer burial container that protects a body from contact with soil. Graves may also be shallow enough to allow microbial activity, similar to that found in composting.


What exactly is a green burial?

At its "greenest," a natural burial has the most minimal effect on the environment. The range of choices include no embalming; choosing a cloth shroud, pine or cardboard box over a traditional casket; no concrete burial vault; graves dug without power tools; no tombstone; no pesticides or weed killers to maintain cemetery grass. Green burial is not a new concept, of course, but more of a return to traditions of a simpler time.


How can I learn more about natural burial?

Gill Brothers is one of two Green Burial Council-certified funeral providers in the State of Minnesota. A funeral director is available at any time at (612) 861-6088 to answer questions you may have, or provide more information to help you make the best decisions for your family.  Other useful reading: Green Burial Council and Grave Matters Web sites.


Is embalming required by law?

Neither federal nor Minnesota law require embalming of bodies, although a body is typically embalmed before being transported between states. Embalming is also customary if a death was linked to contagious disease. However, there is no definitive research to indicate that embalming eliminates exposure to disease of people who come in contact with the body.


What are the environmental impacts of a "typical" burial?

Author and natural-burial advocate Mark Harris writes in his book Grave Matters (Scribner, 2007) that every 10 acres of cemetery ground eventually hide:

  • 20,000 tons of burial-vault concrete
  • 1 ton of casket metals
  • Coffin wood to build more than 40 homes
  • Enough toxic embalming residue to fill a back-yard swimming pool
  • Gallons of pesticides and weed killers to keep cemetery landscape lovely.

What are the laws about natural burial in Minnesota?

To our knowledge, the State of Minnesota currently has no specific regulations direclty related to natural burial. But we are in regular communication with the Minnesota Department of Health to ensure our staff can always answer your questions with the most up-to-date information. In general,though, Minnesota laws require that a non-embalmed body must be buried or cremated within 72 hours of release from place of death or coroner or medical examiner. In addition, a body must be buried in a legally recognized cemetery. While state laws neither prohibit non-traditional caskets nor require an "outer burial container," some cemeteries have their own policies. We are glad to provide you with information to help you make the best decisions for your family.

For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Health (Mortuary Science Section) 


 

How do I ensure I am buried naturally when the time comes?

The best way to ensure your natural-burial wishes are honored is to make funeral pre-arrangements with a Gill Brothers funeral director. We are always available -- simply call 612 861-6088.  As part of the pre-arrangement process, we can talk with you about the range of options available to provide the expreience you prefer for yourself or a family member.


Which Minnesota cemeteries do green burial?

Gill Brothers' funeral directors are acquainted with the capabilities of most Twin Cities cemeteries, and in our experience the majority of cemetery managers will do their best to accommodate a family's wishes around natural burial options.

Oak Hill Cemetery in Minneapolis offers burial with a "green casket" and no burial-vault requirement. In addition, Mound Cemetery of Brooklyn Center is certified as a "hybrid green burial cemetery" by the non-profit Green Burial Council. This means neither burial vaults nor embalming are required, and eco-friendly burial containers, including shrouds are welcome. Notably, Mound Cemetery charges an additional perpetual care fee to ensure upkeep and maintenance of green graves without chemicals or pesticides. 

We are happy to answer questions you may have about the range of green-burial options and/or coordinate with Mound Cemetery on your behalf.


What is Alkaline Hydrolysis? And is it 'Green'?

Among the developing trends in cremation is a chemical process called alkaline hydrolysis. Here's how it works: After death, the body is placed in a "resomator," a stainless-steel machine that looks somewhat like a vault. A mixture of water and potassium hydroxide is used to speed breakdown of the the body. With traditional burial, natural decomposition can take up to 25 years; alkaline hydrolysis reduces the time to three to four hours.


A Natural for Minnesotans

Learn More About Green Burial & Cremation

Over the 124 years our family has been serving Minnesota families, times and traditions have changed -- a lot. But from Gill Brothers’ early days in the Twin Cities funeral business -- the black crape and horse-drawn hearses of the Victorian Era -- to the introduction of embalming and later cremation, we have always believed end-of-life rituals honor the dead and heal the living.

As part of the Minneapolis and St. Paul community for five generations, today we see a growing preference for making the connection between death and life more meaningful, simple and sustainable. We consider “green burial” and "green cremation" a natural for Minnesotans, and would be honored to help you select  options that respect the environment -- and your family’s wishes.

A Gill Brothers funeral director is always available to to provide more info and answer questions you may have.