What are Natural Burials and Green Funerals?

‘Natural burial is a term used to describe the burial of human remains where the burial area creates habitat for wildlife or preserves existing habitat (woodland, species rich meadows, orchards, aquatic, sustainable managed farmland etc.) which are rich in flora and fauna. Where a funeral precedes such burial, it would seek to minimize environmental impact by prohibiting embalming and, where a coffin is used, ensuring that this be made of natural, biodegradable materials.’

 A Guide to Natural Burial, Ken West MBE 2010

The essence of a green funeral is age-old elemental simplicity. It rejects the so-called traditional funeral with its stuffy, Victorian, urban look, in favour of a an outdoorsy, homespun, back-to-nature look. It prefers an unspoiled landscape to that of a regimented conventional cemetery. If it’s a look you like, natural burial is as lovely as it gets.

Some of the more important elements of a green funeral are:

  • Rejects cremation
  • Opts for burial in a site serving a conservation purpose
  • Creates an environment which is not usually definable as a burial ground
  • Reviles embalming
  • Requires a coffin or shroud locally made from natural, sustainable materials
  • Forbids demarcation of the grave
  • Forbids marking or personalizing of the grave with any sort of permanent memorial
  • Forbids tending of the grave

It is not the grave that commemorates the life lived,       it is the entire site. 

Losing the plot

Some burial grounds will let you mark the grave with a temporary marker, usually a wooden one. Others will let you mark the grave with a small, simply-worded stone marker laid flat. Some will allow nothing at all.

Many people find it very difficult to lose sight of where their loved one is buried. If you are considering a natural burial, you need to think very hard about this.

Find out more

The Natural Death Centre spearheads the UK’s back-to-nature burial movement. For more info and a comprehensive list of all natural burial sites please visit www.naturaldeath.org.uk.

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