Natural Burials

We are more aware of the damage we have caused to the environment than we have ever been. Plastics, chemicals, environmental sustainability, reduction of our personal carbon footprints and more.

Opting to return to the original method of burial is the only choice for many who are environmentally conscious.

What is a Natural Burial?

Natural burials are burials in a natural, nature filled, woodland, field, meadow, or green space. All which goes into the ground must biodegrade. No huge lacquered shiny American style caskets, metal handles on coffins, plastic, rubber, or chemicals. It is a burial in its simplest, least invasive way, as we used to bury people in days gone by before death became clinical.

Natural burial ceremonies aren’t limited to a short time of twenty-five minutes as other funeral ceremonies are. Families can take their time saying goodbye to their loved one as conveyor belt timed ceremonies don’t happen.

Children at Natural Burials

Children should be involved in funerals if their parents or supporting adults explain what is happening and why. Crematoriums and traditional burials can be scary for any younger family members in attendance. Traditional funerals with a hearse, somber looking, top hat wearing directors and attendees all dressed in black and curtains closing around the coffin as it descends aren’t familiar everyday sights.

Natural burials can involve them and surrounded by nature, the fear factor lessens as trees, flowers and outdoor surroundings are familiar sights.

Being outdoors in nature can make a natural burial funeral or celebration of life a better experience for children. If petals, flowers, messages, or letters are to be cast into the grave after the coffin has been lowered down, children can be included to hold their own items and in turn cast them in.

They can be given bubbles to blow, flags to wave and receive seeds to take home and plant. Watching the seeds grow and tending to them will be a reminder of the person whose funeral they attended, but more of a positive experience than watching a coffin lower as curtains close around it.

Coffins for Natural Burial

Natural materials including wicker, banana leaf, panadus leaf, wool and bamboo are used for natural burials. These materials are biodegrade making them ideal for natural burials. Cardboard coffins are popular too as are plain wooden ones.

Some families prefer to use shrouds rather than coffins and these can be made from natural materials such as wool or unbleached cotton. They can be personalised with felt decorations sewn on such as leaves, trees, symbols, or animals.

A natural or green burial usually forbids embalming, however, if embalming has taken place due to necessities, such as if death occurred in another country and the body must be flown home, it is possible to have a natural burial still, and advice should be sought from the preferred burial ground.

Natural Burial Grounds

Unlike other cemeteries, natural burial grounds are natural spaces. Graves aren’t kempt as the idea is to look like a natural place not a cemetery. Wildflowers, seasonal grasses, various kinds of trees, wildlife and tranquility are the aim.

The whole ethos of natural burial is to lower the body into the earth in a natural and environmentally safe way. Natural burial grounds may also have strict rules on the placing of flowers and trees. Usually flowers without plastic, wire, foam, or ribbon attached are the only accepted floral tributes allowed. There are also rules regarding grave tributes such as balloons, cuddly toys, flower urns and candles.

Graves are fitted with GPS mapping systems, and flat to the ground markers made of sandstone are used instead of large traditional gravestones and memorial stones. Unlike traditional cemeteries, graves, and plots for inurnment of ashes are mostly granted exclusively, rather than leased for between fifty and seventy-five years then must be renewed.

Some natural burial grounds have ceremonial rooms, others don’t, and the ceremony is held at graveside. Most will provide cover and seating, some won’t.

Locally there is Higher Ground Meadow in Corscombe, Fevin Nature Reserve Burial Ground in Westcombe and Edmund Hill Green Burial Site in Glastonbury. As more people request to have a natural burial, new grounds, and parks to accommodate this will open. According to The Natural Death Centre, in Feb 2020 the UK has 270 natural burial grounds. As this was three years ago, the amount has probably increased.

Natural Burial Advice from a Funeral Director

Funeral directors offer advice in all aspects of funeral arrangements. Once such piece of advice was given to somebody deciding between natural and traditional burial. The funeral director could have tried to sway the person into a traditional burial as the fee is higher, but they didn’t. The funeral director offered the following advice.

If you will visit the grave regularly, or even on certain dates such as Christmas, their birthday, the anniversary of their death or other important dates, you may want to consider a burial in your local cemetery which you can easily get to.

If you aren’t planning on visiting the grave, consider a natural burial as there is nothing worse than seeing a flowerless grave at Christmas when others have wreaths, messages, and flowers on them.

Talking about our funeral choices with family members is essential to ensure our choices are carried out when the time comes. It can be upsetting yes, but it can also be rewarding and informative for all family members. Perhaps it could change other people’s minds about their funeral choices, and lead others to choose a natural burial.

Natural burials are exactly that, natural. They are the original method of burial and the most environmentally friendly and cost effective.

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