Having attended more than one funeral in the last year, death and how we Americans deal with it have been on my mind more than usual. As someone committed to  going green in life, it seems only fitting to consider what having a  green death means, as well. It turns out that requires steering clear of most of our modern burial practices.

The truth is that dying in America can be one of the least environmentally-friendly things you do. Our graveyards are more like toxic landfills than peaceful resting places for our loved ones. They are filled with construction materials such as wood, steel, concrete -- but also harbor the embalming chemicals arsenic and formaldehyde, which can, and do, seep out over time and contaminate local ground water.

There is a growing interest in "green burials" and the Green Burial Council  (yes, as my dad always says, there's a professional organization for everything!) lists non-toxic products on their website for those interested in reducing their impact after death.

However, for those who are looking to really 'get back to nature,' but don't like the idea of their cremated remains sitting in a jar, there are some new and unique burial options available.

1. Feed a Tree

A lot of people imagine becoming a tree after they die, and Capsula Mundi's goal is to make that easier. This organic egg-shaped pod is made from starch and other organic, biodegradable materials. The ashes from cremation are placed inside it and the whole pod is placed by your surviving family or friends under the root ball of your favorite tree species (tree not included). There, your remains nourish the growth of a beautiful reminder of your life. The company's vision statement notes: "Instead of gravestones and crosses, a forest of trees will stand in a cemetery." Available online for about $450-$500.

2.    Become A Reef

While puns may abound about "swimming with the fishes" at your burial ceremony, this option really is uniquely beautiful for ocean lovers. With Eternal Reefs, a person's cremated remains are incorporated into an environmentally-friendly reef ball and placed at the bottom of the ocean. "It's a way to give back to the environment in the after life, because it replenishes the ocean's diminishing natural reefs while simultaneously providing a permanent marine marker for those wanting something more emblematic than simply scattering their ashes," a company spokeswoman explains.

For those who want to be part of a larger marine park, Memorial Ecosystems offers the first conservation burial ground in the United States, The Ramsey Creek Preserve, a nautical burial ground in South Carolina.

Both companies began in the late 1990s and share roots that go back to the same river rafting company. With similar business and personal trajectories, the founders are gaining traction and becoming significant players in the combination of environmental sustainability and memorialization concepts.

3.     Become a Diamond

Instead of letting your ashes sit on a shelf, why not turn them into something beautiful (and valuable)?  Heart In Diamond compresses remains into manmade diamonds of many colors. While not everyone will want to wear jewelry made from a relative, it is certainly a beautiful way to keep their memory close. You can see a full interview I did with the founder Harry Burl from DNA 2 Diamonds here to understand why this option is good for the planet and human rights too. Victorian-era mourning lockets that held a picture of the deceased and a piece of their hair as a "memento mori" were ahead of their time.

Death comes for us all, and is often a difficult time of grief and transition for friends and family. The simplicity and beauty of these new green rituals seem refreshing and uplifting for mourners, and a natural completion of a life concerned with sustainability and giving back.