San Francisco, California

Green Burial in the San Francisco Area

San Franciscans associate green burial with Forever Fernwood. The well-publicized acreage in Marin County has attracted headlines but not earned the endorsement of the Green Burial Council, the independent nongovernmental organization that has established standards of the conservation-driven green movement. That situation has to do with the site's history as a cemetery as well as the Council's criteria. But for people searching out green burial right now, Fernwood is the place.

For the moment, green burial is an individual effort made by consumers making demands of their providers. For the moment, that spells compromise.

The basics dictate that green cemeteries do not allow embalming fluids, nonbiodegradable caskets or permanent grave liners or vaults. Green cemeteries use products that promote natural decomposition of a body.

That said, the Green Burial Council certifies three levels of burial grounds:

  • Hybrid burial grounds combine conventional practices with green aspirations. In some instances, this mean vaultless burials. In other cases, land-use principles come into play.
  • Natural burial grounds are green cemeteries that must engage in restoration planning and land stewardship. They need not hold conservation easements but must use deed restrictions or covenants that keep the land as green cemeteries.
  • Conservation burial grounds are green cemeteries that partner with an established conservation group, build a conservation easements on the property, and operate on principles of restoration ecology.