About a decade ago, if someone wanted to be buried when they died it was understood that it would be a “traditional” funeral home burial. That meant purchasing an expensive casket made of non-biodegradable materials, embalming the body, paying for a viewing at the funeral home and funeral services that ended with lowering the casket into a standard grave at the cemetery that would be covered with a concrete grave liner. The ordeal took a lot to orchestrate and thousands of dollars to cover all of the costs.
This was the way burials went from around the mid 1800s until a few years ago. Of course, burial isn’t a new concept. Burial and cremation have been common throughout the world for millennia. However, the way people were buried before the advent of funeral homes was much different. The way we used to bury the deceased before the funeral industry existed is much closer to the way green burials are now done.
Right now there’s a movement towards going back to the burial practices Texans used hundreds of years ago. Green burials, also known as natural burials, are essentially how people were buried prior to the mid-1800s. But the question is, if burials through the funeral home are standard, are green burials legal in Texas?
The Legality of Green Burials in Texas
Burial is highly regulated in any state, just like other forms of disposition. Regulations are in place to make sure the burial is done safely and in a way that won’t cause problems down the road.
Even though green burial practices were the norm for much of history, many people today have concerns over how it’s done. They’ve been so ingrained with the concept of traditional burials, the idea of a natural burial seems unnatural. That somehow without the embalming fluid, metal caskets and grave liners burial is unhygienic or unhealthy. That was actually a debunked notion that was pushed by people in the funeral industry years ago.
That is an inaccurate misgiving, which is why green burial is legal in Texas – so long as you follow the regulations.
Green Burial Regulations in Texas
All burials are going to be regulated, whether it’s a traditional service or green burial on a family property. In Texas, the Health and Safety Code Title 8 Death and Disposition of the Body details burial regulations that are enforced by the Department of State Health Services. The regulations include that:
- The deceased must be placed in an approved container, embalmed or refrigerated if they aren’t buried or cremated within 24 hours of the death.
- A family member can be buried on your own private land, but you need approval first. And the land needs to be less than 10 acres or it will fall under funeral industry cemetery regulations.
- There are state natural burial parks that can be used for green burials.
- The body must be buried at least two feet deep for a green burial. The regulation is 1.5 feet for burial in a non-penetrable container.
- Even private burial grounds must allow access to the gravesite during designated visitation hours.
On top of the state regulations, there could be other rules and restrictions at the cemetery that must be followed exactly. Green cemeteries are very particular because they must follow certain practices to maintain their green designation.
Local municipalities will also have zoning regulations for family cemeteries that are on private land. The county clerk’s office should be able to help you with the local regulations.
For it to be a true green burial, anything that is put in the burial plot must be biodegradable. The casket will need to be plain and made of natural materials, clothing or shrouds must be made with natural fibers and nothing else should be on the deceased. The goal is that eventually over time the only thing that will remain is the bones of the deceased.
DIY Green Burial vs. Funeral Home Green Burial
Green burials are unique in that the family can choose to handle the disposition completely on their own. There’s no law stating that Texas residents have to use a funeral home or funeral director to bury a loved one. In fact, there aren’t many funeral homes that provide green burial services in Texas.
There are pros and cons to each, but there are three key considerations to think about when you’re weighing DIY green burial versus funeral home green burial.
Other than direct cremation, DIY green burial is probably the least expensive form of disposition, especially if the family already has property for a plot. Although green burial services from a funeral home are less expensive than a traditional burial, it’s still going to cost more than DIY green burial.
Handling the green burial on your own is affordable, but it’s also inconvenient. From figuring out how to properly store the body to digging the grave, using a funeral home for the green burial is all-around more convenient. For many families this factor is more important than cost. Handling the natural burial on your own often means getting the burial completed within 24 hours. If not, it can be challenging to store the body.
This is a real variable compared to the other two considerations. Just because you use a funeral home that doesn’t mean you’ll think the services were worth the price or that they provided closure. And the quality of a DIY green burial is largely dependent on how much the family puts into it.
Cremation.Green offers a full array of eco-friendly disposition services, including green burial. Our top priority is making sure the families we work for can feel good about the entire process and have the ability to honor the memory of their loved ones in a meaningful way.