Green Burial has come to Nevada County! Members of our community spoke up and actively participated in the process of reintroducing these techniques. So what is Green Burial? That is the first question we get when we are letting people know about this new option. A green burial allows someone who wishes to return to the earth upon their death in a natural and efficient way. Traditional Caskets are made of metal or woods that contain glues and metal fasteners, also traditional burial requires the use of a in ground vault that may be concrete or a high density plastic. With our specially designed space and techniques we can do burials at the Cherokee Cemetery the old fashioned way and allow a person to return to earth as cleanly as possible. Our process promotes form of natural decomposition to those that wish to conserve resources.
Procedures & Pricing
Our plot size now for traditional full body burial is 4’x10’ (40sq ft.). For Green Burial size needs to be increased to 6’x12’ (72sq ft.) to provide stable sidewalls in the absence of a vault. Burial will take place to as close to the middle of the plot as possible.
All burial caskets or shrouds used must be made from biodegradable natural material and non-toxic. Metal caskets and fasteners, synthetic linings, and formaldehyde glues are not allowed. Commercial caskets must be constructed of wood, grasses, reeds, bamboo, or other natural material and be designed to specifically bear the weight of the body using it. Shrouds must be of natural or plant fiber construction. Burial Shrouds will be considered the minimum required burial container. Homemade caskets will still be allowed and still must conform to existing District policy on such. Shrouds must be designed as such; sheets, blankets, or quilts will not be permitted.
Decedents must not have been embalmed, or have been embalmed with approved non-toxic products. Documentation must be included to show certifications of approved nontoxic embalming.
Excavation & Burial Procedures
The topsoil and clay stratums that comprise the soil will be segregated during excavation to ensure replacement in the proper order. Plots will be dug to 4 ½ feet deep to ensure the nutrient layer is raised to a higher soil stratum where microbes and oxygen will hasten the aerobic decomposition process. The bottom of each grave will be lined with a thin layer of local biomass and another layer will cover the top of the body after placement. Rock will then be placed around the body to help with ground stability and to help identify the grave while still allowing oxygen to assist in decomposition. The excavated soil will then be replaced in reverse order of which it was taken out. A 2 foot mound comprised of topsoil will be above the earth, each burial will have approximately 60 inches of cover. Health & Safety Code requires 18” of cover as that is what is considered enough for the smell barrier, the additional 42” will prevent any animal, including bears, from being able to detect the smell. The topsoil mound will be continually maintained and serve 3 purposes; it will provide for the natural settling of the grave, it will be a visual key that an unlined grave is present and should be avoided by any equipment, and it will help provide an archetype structure that will be recognizable as a burial site for future generations.
Lowering of the Body
Customers who do pre-arrangements and families of at-needs will be counseled beforehand on this procedure. Staff Will Have No Direct Contact With The Remains. Once the body has been transported to the cemetery, it will immediately be lowered into the ground by natural fiber rope. Four, or more, able bodied and of sound mind people, over the age of 18, will be needed from the family for this process. Staff will be on hand to help ensure a safe and smooth lowering. The rope and any other porous material that may be contaminated by fluid will remain in the grave. After the lowering has been completed, then a service may be conducted if there is a wish to do so.
Cost for a 6’x12’ plot will be $1215.00. This reflects the increased size of the plot versus the standard 4’x10’ plot at $780.00
Endowment care fees will increase to $180.00 per plot. The state of California requires we charge at least $2.25 per square foot for Endowment Care, NCD has set that at $2.50 per square foot.
Open, preparation, and closing will be increased to $1150.00. This is increased from $740.00 to reflect the extra work that will be done separating the soils on excavation, placing the biomass and the rock in the grave, and the replacing the dirt in proper order, as well as constructing the burial mound.
A standard burial in a natural cemetery that includes a vault currently costs $2368.00. A green burial will cost $2,545.00
DUE TO THE NATURE OF THIS TYPE OF BURIAL, DISINTERMENT WILL NOT BE POSSIBLE.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Green Burials legal in California?
The CA Health & Safety Code and local Environmental Health have no laws restricting Green Burials at this time.
Does the NCD have policy currently in place to restrict Green Burials?
NCD has no policy expressly prohibiting Green Burials, however, at this time we require all burials to be in a vault. This will need to be adjusted to allow Green Burial practice.
Will Green Burials be allowed at all District Cemeteries?
At this time, we will allow Green Burials to take place only at the Cherokee Cemetery. In the future we may asses other sites for Green Burials as the suitability allows.
Is Cherokee Cemetery a Green Burial only site?
No. There are currently traditional burials that date back to the 1860’s at that site. There is an unused section set aside for Green Burials only that will not be mixed with traditional burials.
What is the size of the plots?
The Green Burial plots will be 6’x12’. Burials will be done as close to the center as possible.
How much does the District charge for Green Burials?
The plot fee is $1215.00. The cost for opening, preparation, and closing of the grave is $1150.00. The Endowment Care fee is $180.00. The total for the burial is $2545.00
Is that cheaper than a traditional full body burial?
No. The cost for a traditional full body burial at the Cherokee cemetery is $2368.00
Why the difference in cost?
The plots are 56% bigger than a standard 4’x10’ to help ensure sidewall stability with the lack of a burial vault. The increase in cost reflects the increase in size. Opening & closing cost is also more because of the added prep work required to do a Green Burial. The Endowment care cost is calculated at a per square foot rate. The purchase of a burial vault is not required for green burial. The overall cost is only $177.00 more than a regular full body burial.
How “Green” is this option?
Traditional burial typically involves embalming. At this site, that will not be allowed or may be allowed if the embalming is done with a certified natural product so no chemicals will leak into the ground. No burial vault made from concrete or plastic will be used. Only caskets made from natural biodegradable materials will be allowed. No metal caskets, hardware, or toxic glues will be allowed. Natural fiber burial shrouds will be allowed and are considered the minimum for burial to take place. Lastly, while machinery will be used to excavate the grave, it will be prepped with biomass prior to burial and immediately after the placement of the body to help hasten the decomposition process. This will allow for a more rapid aerobic decomposition of the body. Soils will be separated upon removal so that when they are returned, the topsoil will be placed back on top, creating an archetype structure that will be maintained as a burial mound and be a visual cue for generations to come.
Are any chemicals used on site?
No. We will not be using any chemical weed control methods at the Cherokee cemetery. There is a natural forest floor so we do not have grass that needs chemical fertilizers. The natural setting still will have some weeds from time to time but those will be removed by hand. The burial mound will be hand maintained as well to ensure erosion and ground settling doesn’t affect the look of the mound.
How is the body to be lowered?
Once the body arrives at the cemetery, it will be immediately placed into the ground. Natural fiber lowering straps will be provided if the casket or shroud does not already have them. 4-6 able bodied people selected beforehand by the family will then transport the body to the grave and lower it in the hole. The straps will be left in the grave as well. NCD staff will be on hand to provide safe instruction and assist if needed. There will be counseling on this process prior to the burial so that everyone involved understands what will be happening and the importance of reverence as well as safety when the time comes.
Why would someone want to have a Green Burial?
A Green Burial is a personal choice that provides a person the opportunity to return their remains back to the earth as cleanly as possible. The process consumes much less resources with the use of a biodegradable casket or shroud. Not having to use a concrete or plastic vault means the body will more rapidly break down and become a part of the natural land.
What do I do if I want to make arrangements for a Green Burial?
Contact the Nevada Cemetery District office for an appointment to select a plot at the Cherokee Cemetery and we can discuss the process and your options to reserve a Green Burial space.
What resources are available locally for Green Burials?
Hooper and Weaver Mortuary
They have a Green Burial service package available that includes eco-friendly printed service material, biodegradable caskets and shrouds, and eco-friendly embalming. For more information you can contact them at 530-265-2429 or hooperandweaver.com
Chapel of the Angels Mortuary
They offer ecofriendly embalming as well as the full range of biodegradable caskets and shrouds. For more information they can be contacted at 530-273-2446 or chapeloftheangels.com
Full Circle Living & Dying Collective
Family home funeral guidance with compassionate after death care that serves as an educational tool for planning a good death. 916-397-5443 or fullcirclelivingdyingcollective.com
What types of headstones can be used for a Green Burial?
The burial site must be marked. If you choose, you may have a headstone made that is a natural stone with the engraving of your choosing. The headstone must comply with our headstone policy and approved by the District Manager. Some people may elect not to consume additional resources for a headstone; in that case, the district will discretely mark the site with a permanent aluminum marker at additional cost. This marker will include the necessary information to identify the person who is buried there for future reference.