In a typical green burial, the body is not cremated, prepared with chemicals, or buried in a concrete vault. It is simply placed in a biodegradable container (cotton shroud, cardboard coffin, untreated wood coffin: preferably with no metal hardware) and interred in a gravesite to decompose fully and naturally. Green burial bodies are often buried about 3.5 feet underground, as this is the ideal depth for decomposition. Markers are normally either a flat grave marker and/or something natural like a stone, engraved stone, etc.
People can be buried on their own property in Maine if you have established a "family burial ground." Contact your local municipality to learn how to accomplish this, as it varies by Town/City. This can - and usually does - take a bit of time, so it is highly recommended that you establish your family burial ground in advance of the need for it.
In short, a 'direct cremation" involves little to no ceremonial services. When time, the body goes directly to the crematorium. Many direct crematories will allow for a "witness cremation" in which the family can be present for the cremation if they wish, and may also be allowed to "press the button" to start the retort. (The chamber where the body cremation takes place) Offerings will vary at each location - please call in advance to determine which local crematories will work best for you. With the proper paperwork, you may transport the body to the crematorium yourself, and/or involve the crematorium for transportation.
An internet search for direct crematoriums will provide you with options, but here are a few:
A more environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, it is a water-based dissolution process for human remains that uses alkaline chemicals, heat, pressure, and sometimes agitation to accelerate human decomposition. (aka: Aquamation, Green Cremation, etc.)
Oftentimes, when a body is donated to a medical school, the school will pay for transportation and cremation of the body. (This varies by school and program) The following schools provide this service for Maine residents:
There are companies that will pick up a body at no cost to you and use it, or parts of it, for research, testing, etc. When they have finished with their research and testing, they cremate the body and return the ashes to the family.
A full-body burial at sea is expensive and strictly regulated. The EPA Burial at Sea regulations may be found here.
Scattering cremated remains in the ocean can be done by anyone but the Federal Clean Water Act requires that cremated remains be scattered at least three miles from shore.
No section of Maine State Law regulates the scattering of cremated remains. As a general rule, be respectful, discreet, and get permission if you want to scatter ashes on someone else's property. As stated in the "Burial at Sea" section the Federal Clean Water Act requires that cremated remains be scattered at least three miles from shore.
NOR is a process that gently transforms human remains into soil in about 4-6 weeks. The process uses large vessels to hold human remains which are combined with straw, wood chips, and other natural materials. Generally, NOR creates one cubic yard of soil per body, and families can either take the soil home once the process is complete or can donate some or all of the soil to conservation efforts. As of June 2022, NOR was legalized in Vermont, however, there are no facilities operating in the state at this time. It may soon be legalized in New York state, and it is my understanding that there are people standing by, ready to establish functioning facilities as soon as possible, once legalized. NOR is currently legal in Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state. Many of the currently operating NOR facilities will accept bodies from anywhere in the United States, however, you will be responsible for transporting the body - or arranging the transportation of the body - to the facility. NOR facilities in the US include:
Compassionate Composting is a service in Maine that composts pets, including horses and other large animals. They will pick up your pet from your home or veterinarian's office, and by request place your pet in a private burial pile and will return their composted remains to you for use in landscaping, flower beds, etc. ( 576Trapp Road, Auburn, ME 04210 - 207.240.1316 - whistleridge@ roadrunner.com
First, "traditional" care for our dead was caring for our dead at home. Our current well-known method of caring for our dead via a funeral home/embalming/etc. is a fairly new development in the grand scheme of things. (Civil War)
You will notice that the above list of resources does not include our now-known "traditional" methods of services provided via a funeral home. I did not include them here, as I am confident that most everyone is familiar with these options. If you do opt to utilize a funeral home for the care of your dead, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Federal Trade Commission's "Funeral Rule."
The FTC Funeral Rule includes the following:
Regarding full-body burial: Concrete vaults are NOT required by law. The vaults are, however, often required by the cemetery for the sole purpose that the vault prevents the sinking of the ground as decomposition occurs, which makes landscaping easier. (Lawn-mowing, etc.) The same applies regarding vault requirements for the burial of cremains: cemetery policy, not a lawful requirement.
You may be able to find a funeral home that is willing to work with you for a "hybrid" funeral. This might be something along the lines of having a home funeral/vigil, but having a funeral home transport the body, and/or fill out the paperwork, etc. You will likely have more success in this with a family-owned funeral home. You may need to specifically inquire if a funeral home is family owned, as many of them "appear" to be family owned (in name, etc.) but are actually now owned by large corporations.