Greening Your Local Cemetery

In Massachusetts, cemeteries must be organized as not-for-profit cemetery corporations. Cemeteries are operated by a municipality, a religious organization, or as a private, non-profit organization or association. Cemeteries come under the jurisdiction of a city or town's Board of Health.

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Green burial is allowed under Massachusetts state law. Cemeteries develop their own rules and regulations about the type of burial that is allowable in their cemetery.

If you are interested in a green burial, talk with the cemetery administrator about this option. You can share this document, Offering Green Burial Options in Your Hybrid Cemetery, available through the Green Burial Council for adding green burial into existing cemeteries. This document also includes existing rules and regulations for green or natural burial used by other cemeteries that can be adapted for your cemetery.

If your cemetery still requires a vault, you can opt for a “greener” burial by doing these steps:

  • Skip the embalming;
  • Choose a coffin made of local softwood (pine is good) or another biodegradable container;
  • Ask to omit the lid and invert the vault, so the body and its container can rest directly on the earth.

If your chosen cemetery is privately owned, speak to someone on its board of directors about your preferences. If it’s a municipal cemetery, speak to your local Cemetery Commission about permitting green burial. Better still, volunteer to serve on it.

If you know of cemeteries in Massachusetts that allow green burial, but that are not listed on our website, please contact us so that we can add them to our list.

We do not yet have a dedicated green cemetery in Massachusetts, but we are working on it. See The Valley Conservation Cemetery Project. New York has one (Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve, near Ithaca; (607) 564-7577), and Maine has two (Cedar Brook Burial Ground, near Portland; (207) 637-2085; and Rainbow’s End Natural Cemetery, south of Bangor; contact Joan Howard@att.net.