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Estate planning with the environment in mind

If you are eco-conscious or want to avoid wasting resources in your estate planning, it is important to communicate your wishes with family and estate planners alike. With careful attention to detail, you can leave a legacy of stewardship of the earth and one another.


Most people think about the burial itself when they think of funeral arrangements. However, there are many more options to consider than your final resting place.

In California, the Green Burial Council recognizes six cemeteries and eleven funeral homes for their efforts towards environmental protection or conservation. These include cemeteries that provide green burial services such as:

  • Flame cremations
  • Water cremations
  • Natural burials (without embalming fluids)
  • Biodegradable burial containers (urns, caskets, etc.)
  • Ash gardens
  • Native tree urns or other “living urn” services and gardens

However, it is also good practice to consider natural fiber burial/cremation clothes and shrouds, requesting native flowers and being cautious about excessive printing. Holding daytime services, carpooling and requesting local catering with native foods served on reusable dishes are all excellent ways to conserve energy and resources.

Inheritance and gifts

If you plan to leave real property or large gifts to others, you could incorporate them into your environmentally conscious legacy. These gifts might be the following:

  • A financial or land gift to an ecological conservation
  • Selling or donating an older or fuel inefficient vehicle to charity
  • Updating to energy-efficient appliances, windows and plumbing in an older home
  • Properly recycling old electronics
  • Being an organ donor
  • Considering whole body donation to science or other medical institutions

Planning your estate may be one of the most personal things you do. There are mountains of decisions to make, each with its own difficult emotions to consider. However, the best way to protect your family and ensure your wishes are carried out is to indicate your preferences early and often.

Preserve your estate after you are gone by taking steps to sustain the planet for the next generation. And the one after that, and the one after that.