What Does a Green Burial Cost?

What Does a Green Burial Cost?
See what green burial costs. Plus comparisons to the cost of a traditional burial as well as cremation and aquamation.
11 minute read


Green burials have become increasingly popular in recent years. They offer a way to ensure your end-of-life plans have a minimal impact on the environment and support conservation and sustainability. But some might wonder if these benefits come with a sizeable price tag. Below is everything you need to know about green burial costs and how they compare to traditional burial options. We also compare the costs of cremation and aquamation.  All fees quoted are in Canadian dollars.

To scroll directly to sections of this green burial cost guide, click a link below.

What is a green burial?

A green burial is a funerary practice that aims to minimize a person's environmental impact upon their death. It is often used as a blanket term to refer to any practice that achieves this. However, it may also refer exclusively to burials. In this case, it denotes burials that follow particular criteria that allow a body to incorporate into the earth more naturally.

The five principles of a green burial, according to the Green Burial Society of Canada, are as follows:

  1. No embalming
  2. Direct earth burial
  3. Ecological restoration and conservation
  4. Communal memorialization
  5. Optimized land use

Since these principles are integral to green burial, it is important to consider their impact on the overall price.

You can also learn more about green burials in Canada in our overview post.

How much does a green burial cost?

Like other funeral services, the full cost of a green burial has to consider if a  ceremony or funeral service is held.

A direct burial without a ceremony is the most affordable choice, however some families may want additional events such as a viewing, visitation, wake, etc. Nonetheless, the average cost of a green burial in Canada will typically fall into the range of $3,000 to $5,000. Below is a breakdown of the fees included in that price range.

Itemized green burial fees

In Canada, basic funeral fees must be paid on several mandatory elements of a funeral regardless of it type. This includes documentation, transportation, storage, and professional and staff fees.

Funeral documentation costs

For funerals to occur in Ontario, a death must be registered, and a burial permit must be obtained. The Medical Certificate of Death and Statement of Death forms must be submitted to the local municipal clerk's office. Once submitted, a burial permit can be issued. This paperwork can be completed by a funeral provider or by the deceased person's family. In other provinces similar documentation is required.

The registration and burial permit cost is minimal (under $20) or free in some provinces if completed by the family. You may also request a death certificate which costs around $15, or a certified copy of death registration which often ranges from $20 to over $50.

Funeral providers will typically charge around $100 to $300 to complete the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have similar paperwork. A Medical Certificate of Death must be completed to obtain a burial permit for both provinces, and a Statement of Death may also be needed for certain services. In Nova Scotia, a death registration form is also necessary. Unlike Ontario, these forms cannot be completed by the family of the deceased person. It is the responsibility of the funeral provider and must be submitted to Vital Statistics.

Since these forms are the responsibility of a funeral director, the fees for completion vary depending on the funeral provider. However, it too will typically range from $100 to $300.

After the death has been registered, families can obtain other forms such as a Death Certificate if they choose.

In Saskatchewan, there are three types of death certificates you can choose. These range from $35 to $55. In Nova Scotia, this costs $33 for a short form death certificate and $39.90 for a long-form death certificate.  

Cost summary:

From under $50. $100-$200 if handled by a funeral provider.

Body transportation fees

Transportation occurs between the place of death and the location where a body will be prepared or the location of final disposition. This is typically done by a transfer service hired by the family or by a funeral provider.

A family can also transport a body in a private vehicle in Ontario. In this case, the transportation fee would be free or minimal (e.g., the cost of gas).

If using a transfer service, the fees will vary depending on distance and the number of places the body will be transported. However, the cost for this is typically $100 or more.

Cost summary:

$150 to $500 per transfer. More as distance to destination increases. In green burials, two transfers will be required. One to the place of preparation and then the second to the green burial ground.

Body storage and sheltering fees

In many cases, paperwork must be completed before any services can begin. This paperwork will typically take a couple of days to over 12 weeks. The type and cost of storage varies depending on how and for how long the body will be stored.

Positive-temperature refrigeration (above zero) is one of the most common options funeral providers use. It works well when bodies are buried or cremated within two weeks after death. Beyond that timeframe, negative refrigeration (below zero) is used.

Sheltering and storage fees will typically cost around $300 or fall within the range of $35 to $100+ a day. The price may also change or increase depending on the refrigeration temperature.

Cost summary:

$35 to $100+ per day. In the case of a direct funeral (with no ceremonies or delay before burial), expect fees for 1 to 3 days.

Professional and staff fees

If families use a funeral provider to plan a funeral, general professional fees are billed for handling most or all arrangements. Funeral providers also advise you, provide death benefits, plan logistics, and more. Documentation may also be included in these fees.

The cost for these services depends on the type of funeral services held. However, it will often range anywhere from $200 to over $1000.

Cost summary:

Professional fees: $200 to $1000+.

Green burial fees

Green burials differ from traditional burials in a variety of ways. Therefore, some fees may be added or excluded from the overall cost. The main areas it differs from are body preparation, burial container or covering, and interment. These are explained in detail below.

Body preparation costs

Body preparation for green burials varies depending on what services will be held. It can include cleaning, bathing, and dressing the body. (This can be handled by family if they choose.) Funeral providers will likely charge at least a nominal fee ranging from $100 to $300.

In traditional funerals, embalming is employed to chemically delay body decomposition for a week or so. However, the chemicals used in this process can leach into surrounding land and water after burial; this does not align with the principles of green burials. Therefore, those who want a ceremony or funeral event such as a viewing or visitation must use other forms of body preservation, such as refrigeration

Cost summary:
Exclusion of embalming will save $200 to $1,000. Refrigeration costs adds $35-$100 per day. Professional body preparation fees: $100 to $300, sometimes more depending on complexity.

Cost of burial container or shroud


For a green burial, bodies must be wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket. This allows for the body to have a direct earth burial. Grave liners and protective vaults are also eliminated.

Biodegradeable casket

In traditional burials the price for a casket ranges anywhere from $900 to $20,000 but usually falls within the $2,000 to $5,000 range. These are often made from materials that do not decompose quickly or may leach chemicals into the ground.

By comparison, a biodegradable casket usually costs between $100 and $1,500+. Simple caskets are usually made of wood, without metal, varnish, or glue. These caskets can be easily personalized and are accepted by most green burial sites.

Woven caskets are usually made from wicker, bamboo, or willow but can also be created from sugarcane or banana leaves. These caskets are unique and well-made pieces that are sturdy, making for easy transport of bodies.

Caskets can also be made from materials such as cardboard, paper, plant fibres, and more.

Shrouds

A shroud is a piece of fabric used to wrap the body and can be made of many types of material, including cotton, silk, muslin, wool, bamboo, and hemp. These are highly customizable and often preferred for green burials as fewer resources are used to make them. Fewer resources also mean that shrouds usually take less time to create and break down over time. They cost $195 to $1,000. If you choose the Coeio's mushroom burial suit, you'll pay $1900+.

Cost summary:
Biodegradable casket: $100 and $1,500+.
Shroud: $195 to $1,000.
Mushroom suit: $1900+ ($1500 USD)

Interment fees

Green burials must be held in designated green burial sites. The fees for interment are used to support the remaining principles for green burials.

Environmental restoration, conservation, and preservation are integral to green burials. Therefore, sites must employ strategies that help achieve this.

One way to do this is by covering the grave plot with local plants to promote the creation of new life and allow integration into the local ecosystem. Because of this, visitation and memorialization are also often discouraged. As such, this eliminates fees associated with a committal or graveside service.

Some cemeteries will create natural, communal memorials (e.g., trees, flowers, rock engraving, etc.) and walking spaces or paths.

With traditional burials, grave markers or monuments are commonplace or may be required. These markers can cost anywhere from $200 to over $2,000. Therefore, green burials may eliminate or minimize these costs.

Optimizing the space within green burial sites is also essential. Therefore, sites may choose to re-use burial plots over time. This is currently not applicable to green burial sites in Canada since perpetual rights are common. However, you will likely pay less for a temporary burial plot if this is offered.

These factors are essential to consider when looking at the cost of internment, and the prices will vary from cemetery to cemetery. Nonetheless, burial plot fees may range anywhere from $200 to over $3,000. This is similar to traditional burial plots.

Cost summary:
Green burial plot fees range from $200 to over $3,000

Costs eliminated:
Grave marker: $200 to $2000

Traditional burial vs. green burial

Generally speaking, green burials cost less than traditional burials. This is because there is often more resources, services and pricier products associated with traditional burials. There are usually more funeral events held, such as a church service, viewing, visitation, wake and/or reception.

Likewise, embalming is standard to ensure the body remains in good condition for these events. Traditional caskets as a rule are more expensive than biodegradable versions, and more preparation is usually involved. Many of these services are not exclusive to conventional burials but more commonly included in the funeral.

For this reason, traditional burial funerals will often range from $4,000 to over $12,000. In contrast, green burial packages typically cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

"Green" funeral can also mean direct cremation or aquamation

Another way to reduce the cost of a funeral and also while also minimizing the environmental impact is through direct cremation or aquamation.

Cremation the process of reducing a body's organic matter to bone fragments, which are then processed further into particles that look like sand, powder, or coarse dirt (referred to as cremated remains or ashes). There are two disposition methods: flame cremation or aquamation.

Flame cremation

Flame cremation cremates a body by exposing it to extreme heat within a chamber. This results in ashes that are typically coarse like sand and grey in colour.

Aquamation

With aquamation – sometimes called liquid cremation or flameless cremation – a body is treated with water, heat, pressure, and alkali (potassium hydroxide), which produces a reaction that speeds up decomposition over a period of 24 hours.

The process results in bone fragments and a sterile liquid. The fragments are dried and reduced mechanically into a tan or white powder (also called "ashes"), and the sterile liquid is released into the local municipal wastewater system.

How does "direct cremation" reduce funeral expenses?

Part of the green burial trend is the intention to use less resources and to eschew traditional funeral events and practices such as a viewing or visitation and embalming.  As such, use of less resources in a funeral results in lower costs and less impact on the environment.

One way to achieve this is through direct cremation  (offered by Eirene in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatachewan).

That means that after death a body is transferred to a crematorium and is held temporarily in refrigeration. Once necessary paperwork is finalized (varies from one to three days depending on which province) and basic body preparation is conducted (pacemaker or surgical appliances are removed where applicable) the deceased person's body is cremated. The ashes are returned to the family.

Direct cremation reduces funeral costs by eliminating traditional funeral events that require the presence of a body. In some cases, a family may hold a smaller gathering to remember their loved one after the fact. Some hold larger celebration of life parties. However these events do not delay cremation and are often held days, weeks in some cases months after cremation. Note that "direct aquamation" (offered by Eirene in Ontario and Saskatchewan only) follows a similar process, except that alkaline hydrolysis is used on the body instead of flame cremation to reduce it to bone ash.

Sustainability of cremation and aquamation

Both forms of cremation are viewed as more sustainable compared to burials since they are quicker, less labour-intensive, require fewer resources and make embalming unnecessary (if you so choose).

Aquamation reduces the environmental impact further by eliminating direct emissions of greenhouse gases or mercury, burning fossil fuels, and using less energy.

Direct cremation and aquamation vs. green burial

The cost of flame cremation and aquamation varies, but the differences are not significant. Flame cremation packages range from $800 to over $3,500. Aquamation packages range from $2,000 to $4000. (At Eirene, all inclusive packages are $2500 and $3500 respectively.)

Direct cremation involves transferring a body directly to the cremation centre shortly after death, eliminating more costly services such as visitation, viewing, wake, and casket purchases. Therefore, direct cremation and aquamation packages will often cost between $1,500 to over $3,000 depending on which part of Canada they are offered and what services are included in a package.

An additional fee to consider when choosing cremation is an urn purchase. A basic or simple urn is sometimes included in cremation packages, but there are additional fees for more ornate or elaborate urns. Urns can range anywhere from $10 to upwards of $2,000.

Choosing to inter an urn in a columbarium or burying it in the ground will also incur additional fees starting at around $400 but can cost as much as $3000 or more in urban cemeteries.

Biodegradeable urns are also available.

Overall, direct cremation (or aquamation) is typically cheaper than green burials. It may not be as "eco-friendly", but it still offers a way to minimize your environmental impact at a lower cost.

Summary: Cost of green burial vs. cremation & aquamation vs. traditional burial


In this table, we compare green burial costs with traditional burial costs and cremation and aquamation:

Item Cost Green Burial Traditional Burial Cremation Aquamation
Documentation fee <$50 to $300 Required Required Required Required
Body transportation fee $200 to $400 per transfer Required Required Required Required
Professional fees $200 to $1000+ Required Required Required Required
Embalming fee $200 to $1,000 N/A Only if visitation or viewing is selected* Only if visitation or viewing is selected* Only if visitation or viewing is selected*
Refrigeration fee $35 to $100 per day (needed 1-3 days usually) Required Required until embalimg conducted, if selected Required Required
Traditional cemetery interment fee $200 to over $3,000 N/A Required Optional (for ashes) Optional (for ashes)
Green cemetery interment fee $200 to over $3,000 Required N/A Optional (fee for ash scattering only) Optional (fee for ash scattering only)
Cremation fee $000 N/A N/A Required N/A
Aquamation fee $000 N/A N/A N/A Required
Casket or shroud cost Traditional casket: $2,000 to $5,000
Biodegradable casket: $100 and $1,500+
Shroud: $195 to $1,000.
Mushroom Suit: $1900+
Biodegradeable casket or shroud required Casket required Basic container required No container required
Urn cost $10 to $2000+ N/A N/A Basic urn required at minimum Basic urn required at minimum
Grave marker $$200 to $2000+ N/A Required Optional, if ashes buried or interred Optional, if ashes buried or interred
Funeral event (reception, viewing, visitation, wake, celebration of life) $500 to $3000+ Optional Optional, but typically selected Optional, celebration of life sometimes subsituted Optional, celebration of life sometimes subsituted
  • Refrigeration can be substituted, though funeral homes may discourage it.

Questions?

Ask our experts at Eirene Cremations about direct cremation services in Ontario, Nova Scotia and direct aquamation services in Ontario. Email us at support@eirene.ca. To make arrangements, click here.