National Association of Chevra Kadisha

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Does Judaism allow green burial?

By Yekusiel
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The modern American funeral includes processes that are toxic and leave a large carbon footprint. These include embalming, which uses formaldehyde, a known carcinogen; coffins that are partially or wholly made of non-biodegradable materials, such as metal or plastic; and the installation of a concrete “vault” inside the grave.

Everyone who is concerned about the future of our planet favors “green burial,” which conserves natural resources and reduces carbon emissions.

Jewish burial — which prohibits the use of contaminating or harmful products and processes — is green burial. The body is washed with warm water and clothed in pure linen, a natural fiber. Burial does not require use of a coffin at all, but if one is used, it is constructed entirely of wood, without so much as a metal nail. 

It is important to note that cremation is no more environmentally friendly than the modern American burial. In addition to releasing more than 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per body, cremation also releases vaporized mercury and other toxins into the air.

If someone cares about the environment, they want traditional Jewish burial.

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