Where can you easily plan a natural burial?
To mark Memorial Day on May 29, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best States for Green Burials.
We compared the 50 states based on four categories. We factored in access to green burial locations, funeral homes specializing in natural burials, and demand, among 18 total metrics.
Explore green funeral options in our ranking below. To learn how we ranked the states, see our methodology.
In this article
State rankings + infographic
See how each state fared in our ranking:
Top 5 close up
Check out the slideshow below for highlights and lowlights on each of our top five states.
With high environmental concern and limited urban burial space, many Americans are considering more natural options for their end-of-life plans.
Our top-ranking states — California (No. 1), North Carolina (No. 2), and Ohio (No. 3) — offer plenty of green burial providers and locations. These states have high demand in natural burials, despite low Financial Advantage compared with other states where traditional burial and cremation are more expensive.
Meanwhile, Delaware (No. 47), Montana (No. 48), and Nebraska (No. 49) landed at the bottom of our ranking, alongside Alaska in last place. Far fewer residents are interested in eco-friendly burials and lack access to providers and green burial sites.
- Golden green burials: With over a 20-point lead ahead of the next state, California finishes in first place overall, as well as in Provider Access and Burial Locations. While traditional burial options are most affordable in California, this state offers the most natural burial sites and tree burial forests. The Golden State also boasts the second-highest number of cemeteries certified by the Green Burial Council.
- Earthly legacies: Plan a green funeral with ease in Pennsylvania (No. 4), boasting the most funeral homes certified by the Green Burial Council, followed by Ohio (No. 3) and Michigan (No. 6). Ohio claims the most conservation burial grounds — a practice that turns what would be a natural cemetery into a protected wildlife conservation area.
- Contemporary cremation: In the U.S., cremations can generate around 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Thankfully, greener options are available in Colorado (No. 17) and Illinois (No. 12), which tie for the highest number of aquamation (alkaline hydrolysis) providers. This water cremation process is currently allowed in 28 states.
- Pacific Coast processions: Known for majestic scenery and promoting sustainable initiatives, the Pacific Northwest carries its eco-friendly values into end-of-life planning. Washington (No. 11) and Oregon (No. 9) both allow aquamation, body composting, and vault-free burials. Washington has the best access to body composting providers, followed by the Beaver State tied with Colorado (No. 17). Oregon also offers the most natural funeral service providers.
- Massive options: In fifth place, Massachusetts boasts the most cemeteries certified by the Green Burial Council. The Bay State also claims the highest number of hybrid burial sites, where people can choose between a natural and traditional burial.
- Interment interests: Residents of South Carolina (No. 10) have the highest interest in a green exit, followed by North Carolina (No. 2) and Pennsylvania (No. 4). These states also have high access to green Burial Locations. Some states — such as Louisiana (No. 34), Maryland (No. 36), and Tennessee (No. 29) — have high interest in natural burials but unfortunately lack those options.
Behind the ranking
First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to the Best States for Green Burials. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into four categories: Provider Access, Burial Locations, Financial Advantage, and Demand. The categories, factors, and their weights are listed in the table below.
For each of the 50 states, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table.
Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each state to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A state’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Best” (No. 1) and the lowest “Worst” (No. 50). Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 50 due to ties.
Better Place Forests, CNN, Eirene, Funeralocity, Google Ads, Green Burial Council, Green Matters, Natural Burial Company, and US Funerals Online
Main Photo Credit: iStock