This section is copied from The Green Burial Council website which has extensive and excellent information on all aspects of Green Burial in North America.
There is great debate over the use of the word "green" when discussing burial. Hybrid, natural, and conservation cemeteries choosing to follow the basic guidelines of green burial fall under the general category of green cemeteries, as opposed to conventional-lawn cemeteries that require concrete or plastic vaults or liners, allow embalmed bodies and allow exotic wood or metal caskets.
Natural burial grounds, cemeteries, and preserves all seek to bury without impediment. That means no embalming, no liners or vaults, and using biodegradable containers, whether caskets, shrouds, or nothing at all. These cemeteries are operated by a variety of owners: municipal governments, religious groups, individuals, nonprofits, for-profits, and others. Often these burial grounds are designated natural because they may not be directly affiliated with or in partnership with a land trust or other conservation entity, but they most likely are committed to following conservation best practices nonetheless. Natural burial cemeteries strive to provide rich experiences for families and friends amidst careful restoration and maintenance of the land and its inhabitants, both above and below ground.
GBC's Green Burial Ground Criteria
Caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources
Reduction of carbon emissions
Protection of worker health
Restoration and/or preservation of habitat
Green Burial Cemetery Characteristics
Foregoes toxic embalming
Does away with vaults
Chooses biodegradable containers, caskets, shrouds, and urns
Discontinues herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers
Encourages sustainable management practices
May use GPS units or non-native stone markers to mark gravesites
May support land conservation efforts
A conventional cemeterythat offers the essential aspects of natural burial, either throughout the cemetery or in a designated section. GBC-certified hybrids do not require vaults and must allow for any kind of eco-friendly, biodegradable burial containers, such as shrouds and softwood caskets.
Natural Burial Grounds
A cemetery dedicated in full to sustainable practices/protocols that conserve energy, minimize waste and do not allow the use of toxic chemicals, any part of a vault (lid, slab, or partitioned liner), markers made of non-native stone, and burial containers not made from natural/plant-derived materials.
Conservation Burial Grounds
A type of natural cemetery that is established in partnership with a conservation organization and includes a conservation management plan that upholds best practices and provides perpetual protection of the land according to a conservation easement or deed restriction.
The Green Burial Society of Canada is another excellent resource for information on Green Burial in Canada and for certification of green burial cemeteries in Canada.