Green Burial



The purpose of a Green Burial is to allow the body to quickly and naturally return to the elements of the earth and begin the regeneration of new life. 

St. Francis Meadow is located in the southwest portion of Holy Cross Cemetery in Caledonia. Because that area is part of a larger facility that accommodates non-green burials, as well as mausoleum spaces, it is considered a Hybrid Cemetery.  Nonetheless, in St. Francis Meadow the fundamental principles of Green Burial will apply:

  • No embalming with formaldehyde or other unsafe chemicals
  • No concrete or metal burial vault
  • Only a biodegradable casket, shroud, or other container
  • A more natural landscaping, using prairie grasses and wildflowers


  1. What is a green or natural burial?

The terms green burial and natural burial are often used interchangeably.  Green burial can be viewed as a return to the traditional customs of pre-industrial society. The purpose of a green burial is to allow the body to quickly and naturally return to the elements of the earth and begin the regeneration of new life. A green burial does not use a non-biodegradable casket, a burial vault, or embalming fluid containing formaldehyde or other dangerous chemicals. The remains are allowed to decompose naturally. The process has minimum impact on the environment.

In his Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls us to “Care for Our Common Home.”  Responding to that call, the Catholic Cemetery Association of Racine has established, at its Holy Cross Cemetery, a section designated for green burials; it is called St. Francis Meadow.   Because Holy Cross has mausoleums and sections for standard burials as well as St. Francis Meadow, Holy Cross will be known as a hybrid cemetery.

  1. What type of container is used for green burial?

The body can be buried in a container, as long as the container does not prevent decomposition of the body and is itself biodegradable. Some examples of environmentally friendly containers would be a simple wooden casket, a cardboard or woven casket, or a shroud.  (A shroud is a large piece of fabric that is used to wrap the body.)

  1. Is embalming required by law?

There is no law in Wisconsin that, under normal circumstances, requires bodies to be embalmed. Special circumstances, such as an extended time between death and burial, or the transportation of remains on commercial aircraft, may necessitate embalming.

  1. How soon does burial have to take place with green burial?

The principal concern in this regard is the speed of decomposition.  In the absence of embalming, refrigeration of the body slows, but does not stop, the process of decomposition.  If there is to be a public viewing of body not embalmed, the closer the burial is to the time of death the better.

  1. Can family have a viewing of the body if it is not embalmed?

Policies for viewing bodies not embalmed vary by funeral home. Refrigeration and dry ice are methods of temporary preservation that some funeral homes use in lieu of embalming. Even with these methods, a funeral home may limit viewing of a body not embalmed to the immediate family.

  1. Will the body be able to be at Church for the funeral?

Yes. The body will be treated like any other body. If the body is shrouded, a rented casket can possibly be used for the funeral Mass and its rites. It is also possible for a shrouded body to be brought into the church. Please check with your church and funeral home to look at your options.

  1. What will the burial site look like?

Holy Cross Cemetery will be considered a hybrid cemetery-a traditional cemetery with a special green burial section. In St. Francis Meadow, the green burial section, the individual graves will not be marked. However, there will be stones that mark the section and on which the names, and birth and death years, of the persons buried in the section will be inscribed. The green burial section will be planted with only prairie grasses and wildflowers; it will have a less-manicured, more natural appearance than the rest of the cemetery.

  1. How deep will the burial be? Is there any concern about animals disturbing the grave?

Green burial can occur at depths as little as one foot. We plan on burying at least four feet deep. Studies have shown that animals do not disturb these graves. It has been shown that only 12 inches of soil is needed to prevent animals from digging into graves. Pioneers buried in cemeteries near wilderness areas did not experience grave disturbances from animals, even with relatively shallow graves.

  1. Will there be individual monuments or grave markers?

In keeping with the principle of minimum impact on the environment, no individual monuments, headstones, or grave markers will be permitted in the green burial area.  Large stones will mark the section, and the names, and birth and death years, of the persons buried in the section will be inscribed on them.

  1. How will we know where the person is buried?

Records of each burial will be held by the cemetery and there will be a grid map with the approximate location of the individual gravesite.

  1. What will burial rites look like? Will they be different from other ways of burial?

There will be no difference between the rites for a green burial and those for a standard burial.

  1. What will green burial cost? Shouldn’t it be cheaper than regular ground burial?

There may be less cost associated with a funeral for a person who will receive a green burial, because of the use of a biodegradable casket or shroud, and the lack of embalming and of a burial vault.  However, because we have incurred some additional costs in development of the site, and because every green burial includes the engraving of the decedent’s name and birth and death years on a large common stone, the cost of a green burial gravesite will be slightly greater than that for a standard gravesite. On the other hand, we intend to charge the same opening and closing fee as for the standard burial area.

  1. Can cremated remains be buried in the green burial section?

Yes, but the cremated remains must be in a biodegradable container.

  1. Are there restrictions about how one needs to be clothed for green burial?


  1. Can I sell back to you my present grave to move to the green burial option?

Normally, the Catholic Cemetery Association of Racine does not repurchase gravesites.  However, we will consider repurchase of a standard grave site to accommodate purchase of a green burial site.  Our ability to repurchase a site may depend on various factors, including the location of the site and its suitability for resale to another family.

  1. Can I purchase two graves so that my spouse and I can be buried next to each other?

It is certainly possible to purchase two graves at once.  However, the nature of green burials limits our ability to assure someone in advance of the specific location of his or her grave. 

For example, in a standard burial, the remains are in caskets within concrete vaults.  If a grave is to be dug between two standard burial graves, we can be confident that the remains on either side of the new grave will not be disturbed.  But, though we always dig as precisely as possible, digging for a green burial between two existing green graves could potentially disturb remains in one of them.  To minimize the likelihood of disturbing remains, persons will be laid to rest in the green burial section in the order in which their committals occur. 

Thus, when we convey to someone the right to interment of that person or a loved one in the green burial section, we cannot specify in advance the precise grave site in which the decedent’s remains will ultimately be placed.  In this regard, it should also be remembered that in the green burial section there will not be individual markers.  The names of persons buried in that section, along with their years of birth and death, will be engraved on one of the large stones appropriately located near that section.

  1. Can we leave flowers on the grave? Can we place mementoes, such as photographs, statues, plaques, or holiday decorations near the grave?

To preserve the natural environment of the green burial area, no non-native species of vegetation are permitted, and no artificial items of any kind are permitted.

  1. What if I want green burial but my spouse/partner does not wish to do so?

We have located the green burial section near an area of the cemetery that has ample traditional gravesites. In this way family members can be in close proximity to their loved ones.  

  1. If I have had a knee or hip replacement, can I still be buried in the green burial section?

Yes, implants and prostheses—including pacemakers—are acceptable.

  1. Can a cremation be placed, at a later date, on top of a full body burial in the green burial site?                                                                      

Yes, as long as the criteria for a green burial of cremains is followed.

  1. Can a cremation be placed with a full body at the time of burial?

Yes, as long as the criteria for a green burial of cremains is followed, one cremation may be buried with the full body.