Frequent Questions - Burial & Embalming
For most of human history, what we now call natural burial was just called “burial.” A simple, shallow hole dug into the earth, and the shrouded dead body placed into the hole.
However, in many modernized areas of the world, cemeteries require the body be placed in a metal or wooden casket, then placed in a concrete or metal vault. The earth is not coming anywhere near the dead body.
“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.” via Just How Bad is Traditional Burial?
This is why Clarity Funerals works with Joshua Tree Memorial Park to offer green burials to our families.
While we wish there was a green burial ground (that wasn’t cost prohibitive for our families) closer to Los Angeles, Joshua Tree is the closest memorial park that shares our values.
Here is what they offer in a natural burial ground, adjacent to the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park:
1) No traditional embalming. The deceased is placed in refrigeration until burial. Does not inhibit “natures process” of natural decomposition.
2) An ecologically friendly process by removing the necessity for a vault or grave liner and for the use of toxic chemicals (embalming process). No burial vaults or outside containers are used.
3) Only biodegradable materials can be used for casketing and/or shrouding the body – which can include unfinished renewable wood, woven willow and wicker, raw cotton, or linen and even paper.
4) All of the graves are 100% hand dug. The use of heavy equipment, causing harm to the environment, is not permitted.
5) Seeks to reduce carbon emissions by offering an alternative to the cremation process. Conserves natural habitat and resources.
When a death occurs, you will be speaking to both Clarity Funerals and Joshua Tree Memorial Park. Clarity will take care of everything with regards to filing the death certificate, preparing the body, holding a funeral or viewing (if you wish), and transporting the body. Joshua Tree will arrange the selection of a burial plot and the burial process itself. You can reach them at 760-366-9210.
Burial pricing tends to be a little more complicated, due to the number of variables involved. Burial costs more than cremation, but may be something that aligns with your values, making the additional expense worth it.
For a burial to take place, you’ll need a funeral home (in this case Clarity Funerals) and a cemetery (in this case Joshua Tree Memorial Park). You’ll be working with and speaking to both organizations before burial is complete. In the Southern California area, you are unlikely to do a burial all in (funeral and cemetery) for less than $6,000. Clarity’s charges are the smaller part of the equation – you can find our prices here. Joshua Tree can tell you prices and arrange a site visit when you call them at 760-366-9210.
We are always happy to have your visit our office in Hollywood. Please make an appointment if you would like to do so.
At the office we will have samples of our biodegradable urns and smaller portion urns, but likely you will find the widest range of options by seeing what we have here. Caskets are too large to be kept at our location in the middle of Los Angeles, so each one is special ordered for your loved one at the time of death. Here are the most common caskets and shrouds chosen our families.
In a word, yes.
However, individual cemeteries are allowed to set their own policies. If a private cemetery wants to require that a family purchase a casket and a vault for the dead body (so it is easier for them to landscape) they are within their rights to do so.
It’s important though, that you don’t let a funeral home or cemetery tell you that buying a casket or vault is the law. It is not the law. It is the cemetery’s policy. Any cemetery can choose to offer natural and green burial.
No, embalming (the chemical preservation of the dead body) is never required by law.
One of the biggest myths about embalming is that the process is necessary to sanitize the body and make it safe for the family to view. You can learn more about the origins of this myth in this video from our founder Caitlin, Are Dead Bodies Dangerous?
At Clarity Funerals, we do what is in our power to avoid embalming and the additional expense it brings families. There are rare instances that we would recommend it. One such instance includes the shipping of your loved one across the country or to another country. Another instance would be if damage to the body is incredibly severe, in which case embalming can make the damage easier to repair, ensuring you can see the person. In both of these case, far less toxic “green” embalming fluids will be used.
Simply put, embalming is the process of temporarily preserving a corpse by draining the blood and fluids from the body and replacing them with a chemical solution. Historically, embalming was done with formalin (formaldehyde) solutions. Today, we have equally-effective alternatives that are not formaldehyde based.
Many traditional funeral homes will tell you company policy requires embalming for visitation. We emphatically do not require embalming to have a visitation or a witness cremation at our facility.
To learn more of the details of what exactly happens during the embalming process, please watch the video from our founder Caitlin Doughty, What exactly happens to a body during embalming?.