The biggest problem with going green can be having the green to pay for it.
''Green'' funerals are a growing trend in the industry. Essentially, the deceased is rolled up in canvas and buried 3 1/2 feet under the green among trees, rocks, prairies or rough fields inside the designated ''green cemetery.''
''The preserve thing takes you almost back to the Wild West days,'' Bryan L. Borowski, Staton-Borowski Funeral Home, Warren, said. ''Some people want to go back to nature that way.''
The two main options in this area are Foxfield Preserve in Wilmot, about 10 miles southwest of Massillon, and a ''green'' section of Oakwood Cemetery in Sharon, Pa.
Foxfield describes itself as having ''no manicured lawns or rows of headstones. Foxfield Preserve is a nature preserve first. Trails meander through forest and prairie and naturalists are restoring the site by planting native prairie grasses, wildflowers, and trees.''
People are buried in shrouds or biodegradable caskets, made from materials such as sea willow, without vaults.
The green section of Oakwood allows people to be buried without a vault inside a casket meant to deteriorate, but it's still in the cemetery and not among wildlife and plants.
''In a natural burial, a person is laid to rest in a biodegradable container such as a wooden casket, shroud, or cardboard cremation container,'' according to Foxfield Preserve. ''They are not embalmed and no vaults are used. It is the true 'dust to dust' form of burial.''
Green funerals haven't caught on so much in this area yet, partly because traditions fade more slowly here and partly because of costs, James McFarland of McFarland and Son Funeral Home, Warren, said.
A regular, wooden casket costs about $1,500; a willow wicker casket that is biodegradable costs about $3,000, he said. Most cemetery plots in the Mahoning Valley can be purchased for about $500; plots in a totally green cemetery cost about $2,500, he said.
While proponents say green burials are safe and excellent for the environment, Peter Rossi of Rossi and Son Memorial Chapel, Warren, has questions. He likes watching archaeology shows but notes that there's a reason scientists opening tombs wear masks - certain bacteria can live or lie dormant for thousands of years, he said.
"Embalming will kill certain diseases," he said. "If you just take someone and bury him, it won't kill it."
Borowski said there's another version of a ''greener'' funeral on the horizon, a new way of cremation called emulsification. A water and alkaline solution is used to basically dissolve the body.
It's a greener version of cremation that does not use fuel for fire, release ashes or use as much energy.
He predicts that it will be the norm for funeral homes in a few years.
First, it has to clear legal hurdles.
Edwards Funeral Service in Columbus became the first U.S. funeral home to publicly offer emulsion, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. It filed a lawsuit Wednesday to be permitted to continue doing so.
The state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors recently decided that alkaline hydrolysis is not an acceptable way to dispose of bodies and the Ohio Department of Health issued a memo two weeks ago instructing officials not to accept death certificates or issue burial transit permits if that method is used.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Franklin County against the directors of ODH and the funeral board asks the court for a temporary restraining order to block the enforcement of the health department memo. The funeral home argues Ohio law allows for loved ones or others to choose what happens to a person's body after he or she dies but doesn't give state agencies the right to authorize types of disposition.
The funeral directors board did not respond to a request for comment and the health department declined to comment on the lawsuit.
McFarland said he expects the method to catch on. Alkaline hydrolysis essentially is high-pressured water and chemicals that ''melt'' away skin and tissue, he said.
''It's just like cremation,'' McFarland said. ''Cremation burns all but the bone, and you grind up the bones, which produces what we think of as 'ashes.'''
The water solution dissolves or ''burns'' away the tissue to the bone, but with less use of fossil fuels, less risk of fire, less maintenance than required by a crematorium and less impact on the environment, he said.