Guide to Arranging a Green Burial in New York

Why Choose a natural burial?

Our funeral rituals have been changing over the last decade.  There has been a significant shift towards cremation services, which now account for 57% of all dispositions.  But, at the same time, we are experiencing a rising societal concern about climate change and carbon emissions.  Is it time to look to more sustainable and eco-friendly death care alternatives? This guide to green burial will answer your questions about sustainable death care options in New York.

Read on to learn more about how to arrange a green funeral in New York, what green burial costs, how to find a green funeral service provider and locate a green cemetery, and other information about sustainable death care in New York.

According to a consumer survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association in 2020, 61.7% of Americans are considering a green funeral, with 72% of cemeteries reporting an increased demand for natural burial options.

A green burial can reduce your ‘final’ carbon footprint, and will cost less than a traditional funeral, as many expensive items such as a steel casket and concrete burial vault are not required. 

What makes a funeral ‘green’?

A green funeral is a disposition that has a more limited impact on the environment.  To achieve the ‘greenest’ funeral, the body is not embalmed and is buried in an eco-friendly biodegradable container straight into the ground with no vault.  Green burial sites that seek to achieve high green standards will also adopt only eco-friendly grave markers (such as a local rock marker) and may plant shrubs or trees to help restore the natural habitat.

What does a natural burial cost?

The cost of a green funeral or natural burial may be broken into 2 elements.  The cost for a natural burial plot, and the cost for a professional green burial funeral service.  The average cost for a green burial service in New York is between $2,400 and $4,300.  This is for the services of a funeral home to prepare the deceased for a natural burial, obtain the death certificates and permits, and transportation to a green cemetery.

Prices for a green burial plot vary by cemetery.  Typically, the average cost for a natural burial plot is $1,000 to $3,000*.  Many cemeteries also offer the option for the natural interment of cremated remains. The average price for cremated remains burial is $450.

This means that in New York the total minimum cost to conduct a green burial (funeral service fee + green cemetery plot cost) is likely to cost from $3,600 upwards. Taking into account funeral director’s fees and the lowest cost cemetery plot.

How much is a green funeral service?

New York has some strict rules that apply to funeral services and licensing. It is one of a few states where a family is required to hire the services of a funeral director for transportation of the deceased and filing with the county for permits and death certificates.  This can impact on the cost of natural burial in New York as you are required to use the services of a licensed funeral director, as opposed to arranging to transport the deceased to the burial site and obtaining the permits.

To employ the services of a funeral home to deliver a green funeral service, you will find there are a number of funeral service providers who offer green burials.  As mentioned above, the cost for a green funeral service ranges from $2,400 to $4,300, plus the burial plot and cemetery fees.  We have included below details of funeral homes in New York that are known to offer green funeral services. Click here to view green funeral service providers.

Finding a natural burial cemetery site in New York

We have 11 green burial cemeteries listed for New York on our Natural Burial directory.  There are 3 classifications of green burial sites as certified by the Green Burial Council (GBC).

Hybrid – where an existing traditional cemetery has a separate green burial section.

Natural Burial – a cemetery committed to natural burial and maintaining the existing landscape.

Conservation Burial – dedicated natural burial site backed by a conservation organization, where the commitment to conserving and restoring the natural habitat is paramount.

There are no conservation burial sites in New York, with 8 natural burial cemeteries, and 3 Hybrid green burial cemeteries.  Use our green burial directory to locate your nearest green burial location.

New York surprisingly happens to have more green burial cemetery offerings than any other state.  Many upstate rural cemeteries are older county or Catholic cemeteries that have a designated natural burial section (Hybrid).  And some prices for burial plots in rural upstate cemeteries are extremely affordable with the cost of a single plot being as low as $500 – $800. (Opening fees still apply of $700).

How to find a Green Funeral Service Provider

There are a number of funeral service providers in New York that green funeral services alongside their traditional funeral service offerings.  You can use the list below of funeral homes in New York that offer green funerals.

New York funeral laws for natural burial

New York has some rather restricting funeral laws that some would consider quite archaic in light of how the funeral industry has evolved in recent years.  New York is one of only a few states where the law requires the involvement of a funeral director in final arrangements for disposition. 

A removal or burial permit can only be issued to a funeral director (NY Public Health Law 4140), meaning you need the services of a funeral director to transport the deceased and oversee the burial/interment.  A funeral director must also file for the death certificate within 72 hours of the death, and before a burial or cremation permit can be issued.

Green Burial

Can you conduct a Home Funeral in New York?

Due to the strict laws mentioned above, conducting a home funeral is more difficult than in many other states.  It is possible – but you will need the help of a funeral director willing to support your wish to conduct a home funeral.

New York law does allow for a person to dedicate private land for use as a family cemetery.  It cannot exceed 3 acres and not be located within 300 feet of a dwelling.  The designation of land as a family cemetery must be registered with the local county clerk.

More information about Home Funerals can be found at DIY Funeral Care: Family-directed Funerals.

Is Cremation a ‘greener’ funeral alternative?

Cremation has become more popular in the last decade.  Some would say it is more environmentally friendly than traditional burial – eliminating embalming toxins and steel and concrete from the death care process.  However, carbon emissions from flame cremation and the use of gas (the equivalent of a 500-mile car trip) still mean that there is a significant carbon footprint from a flame cremation.

Many natural burial cemeteries do offer the natural burial of cremated remains. Largely as cremated remains are the body reduced to its natural organic elements.  So, it is possible to arrange a natural burial of cremated remains.

Is Aquamation, Water cremation, or Bio Cremation available in New York?

As water cremation (Alkaline Hydrolysis) offers a much ‘greener’ cremation alternative, more states are adopting (or changing) legislation to legalize this process for the disposition of human remains. [It is legal in far more states for pet disposition].

A bill was introduced to New York Congress in 2011 to legalize aquamation but was opposed by religious groups.  So, at present, there is no law or regulations that govern aquamation.  As the public begins to demand more eco-friendly death care alternatives, we are witnessing an uptake of water cremation in more states.  However, there seem to be few states in the northeast that have yet approved aquamation.  Hopefully, the current political focus on climate change and reduction of carbon emissions may drive an agenda to explore regulating the adoption of alternative eco dispositions such as alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction (NOR), otherwise known as human composting.  Read more about Aquamation as a green alternative.  Or our Guide to Human Composting: Natural Organic Reduction Explained.

At present, the only 2 states in the northeast that have aquamation are Maine and Vermont.

Can cremated remains be interred in a natural burial site?

Yes, many green burial cemeteries offer the option for the burial of cremated remains. The cremated remains will need to be buried in a biodegradable urn container.

What type of burial container do you need for a green burial?

There are various options for biodegradable burial containers that are accepted by green burial cemeteries. Some cemeteries may have certain restrictions on what containers are permitted, so always check with the cemetery.

Typical green burial vessels are wicker or bamboo woven caskets resembling baskets, wool, muslin, canvas, or linen burial shrouds, or cardboard caskets.  Wood caskets may be accepted in some cemeteries, but usually with no metal nails or handles, and to be truly sustainable no toxic glue or varnish.

A green funeral service provider will typically carry a range of sustainable biodegradable burial container options.  Prices for a green burial container range from $450 to $1,800.

Sometimes, families will opt to use a favorite fabric of the deceased or even a memento quilt as a burial shroud.  Blank canvas shrouds can be personalized and decorated to commemorate a loved one.

Want to learn more about green burial? Read 5 Reasons to Choose a Natural or Green Burial.

Green Burial Council (GBC) – certified green standards

The Green Burial Council was established in 2005 as a non-profit educational organization to help steward, educate, and establish universal standards in sustainable death care practices.

The GBC provides certification for green burial cemeteries to ensure the public can have assurances of the standards achieved and maintained by a GBC-certified provider.

GBC certification falls into 3 main categories:

Hybrid cemetery, Natural Burial Ground, and Conservation Burial Ground.

You can read more about each of these certifications and what they mean on our Guide to Green Burial.

If you have any questions about green burial services in New York, you can contact us or call Amy on (718) 540-8819.  Amy runs Fitting Tribute Funerals and helps New Yorkers of all faiths arrange affordable green funerals within New York state.

Directory of Funeral Service Providers in New York known as Green Funeral Providers

LocationFuneral HomePhone NumberGreen Funeral Service Price (not including cemetery fees)
BrooklynGreenwood Heights Funeral & Cremation Services(718) 768-1212 
BrooklynFitting Tribute Funeral Services(718) 338-8080From $2,395
ManhattanCrestwood Cremation & Funeral Services(212) 431-6080 
RochesterJames R. Gray Funeral Home(585) 247-6360From $2,030
RochesterCrawford Funeral Home(585) 482-0400 
RochesterMiller Funeral & Cremation Services(585) 424-3700From $2,960
CazenoviaMichael E. Brown Funeral Services(315) 655-4615 
TarrytownHudson Green Funeral Services (Dwyer & Michael’s Funeral Home)(914) 631-0621 
TarrytownCoffey Funeral Home(914) 631-0983 
MiddletownDewitt-Martinez Funeral & Cremation Services(845) 343-6918 
Island ParkKleinberg Funeral Services(516) 400-5580 
BinghamtonBednarsky Funeral Home(607) 797-2053From $1,795
WaverlyBlauvelt Funeral Home(607) 565-7301 

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.