Is It Time to Rethink Funerals?

Birdwood Valley

The majestic landscape of the Sandhills and the impact of its natural beauty is captured in this quote:

“It is no mere coincidence that our feelings about a place take on spiritual dimensions. An old rancher once told me he thought the lines in his hands had come directly up from the earth that the land had carved them there after so many years of work.”
—Gretel Ehrlich, “Landscape”

A portion of those “spiritual dimensions” led to my thinking and research about Home Funerals and Green Funerals. I am seeking action your part. After reading these thoughts and research on these subjects, please visit this temporary website ( ) to share ideas and interests in common concerning Home Funerals and Green Funerals.
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I will try to explain two different, but sometimes related, procedures. The first is “Home Funerals,” and the second is “Green Funerals.

What is a home funeral?

“A home funeral happens when a loved one is cared for at home or in a sacred space after death, giving family and friends time to prepare the body, file legal paperwork, and gather and grieve in private.

Home funerals can be held at the family home or not. Some nursing homes, church committees and funeral homes may allow the family to care for the deceased after death. The emphasis is on minimal, non-invasive, and environmentally friendly care of the body.

Support and assistance to carry out after-death care may come from home funeral educators or guides, but their goal is to facilitate maximum involvement of the family in charge of the funeral process, and their social network.”

Basically a home funeral allows family, friends or someone appointed by the deceased to make arrangements for the disposition of her or his remains, see Nebraska Revised Statute 30-2223( Home funerals are legal in Nebraska, with just a bit of a twist. The “twist” is that a licensed Funeral Director must supervise
“the burial.” This web page is a good source of basic information on home funerals in Nebraska:
The National Home Funeral Alliance is another excellent source of material related to home funerals:
A good article that gives you a “picture” of home funerals, and well worth reading, is found here:
Home funerals can be, and in most cases are, “Green Funerals.”

What is a Green Funeral?

Green, or natural burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and
biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.”

What is a green burial?

Basically a “Green Funeral” provides a direct return to the earth in which the unembalmed body is placed in a biodegradable container (plain pine box, willow casket, cardboard or recycled paper to name a few) or wrapped in a natural fiber shroud. No vault is used and some green burial sites have a larger mission to restore or conserve the land.

What we describe as green funerals these days have, in fact, been around for a long time: “Green burial is one of those new ideas that actually came from a very old idea. Early American Puritans eschewed any ceremony that was wasteful or seen as pompous, so this type of burial was common. Green burial (also called direct burial) means that the body is buried in a simple container, with no embalming (which requires formaldehyde and other chemicals) and much less ceremony. There’s usually no viewing or visitation. The body’s buried much sooner after death than it would be in a traditional ceremony.”
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By now I hope I have provided just enough information for you to begin to understand what these two processes are and links to more data if you want to delve deeper. Also please note that I have merely provided a basic outline here, and that many combinations of these two concepts are possible.

I searched, sought out and otherwise tried to find a Nebraska group, association, or the like that in an organized way provides information, support and other resources on these two subjects for Nebraska citizens, but came up empty-handed.

Based on the above I ask if any of you who read this; do you think Nebraska citizens need to be better informed about these two processes? And, if so, please go to this temporary web page ( ) which will serve as a temporary gathering and focal point where we can begin to dialogue, discuss, how we might effectively make information available to the citizens of Nebraska that allows them to be informed and educated about home and green funerals?

Woodrow (Woody) Harper

Woodrow Harper lives in Sarben (Keith County), Nebraska. He used to make his living flying airplanes, and has traveled the world. Now he hides out from the popular culture (as best he can) in the valley of the North Platte river as it flows through the Sandhills. An avid reader, he enjoys the quiet and tranquility of his location. He has a JD degree. He has lived in Germany, England and Saudi Arabia.


  1. Sarah Crews June 13, 2016 at 5:19 pm -

    Hi Betty, There is quite a bit of information of green burials on the websites of some of the green burial grounds around the country. I am currently establishing one in Kansas ( As far as I know there is not a cemetery devoted entirely to green burial practices in Nebraska yet. However, it would certainly make sense to talk with the cemetery managers in your region to see if they would be willing to accommodate green burials in a section of their existing conventional cemetery. Many places are making it an option as more and more people inquire about a less resource-intensive approach and a return to natural burial (what we used to call simply “burial”.)

  2. betty sayers June 11, 2016 at 12:33 pm -

    Photos look ethereal and topic as presented interests me. I would like to know more about green burials. Will you establish a green burial cemetery plot?

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