Your Guide to Understanding Natural Burial & Green Funerals

Tradition is not for everyone. Many people today are searching for alternative ways to celebrate milestones like partnership or achievement. This is even true in death; many people are now choosing to forgo tradition by having a natural burial and green funeral service.

There are a variety of reasons for considering natural burials. A common one is because the deceased was eco-conscientious in life and wants to uphold these principles even in death. Also many people feel that this is the most appropriate send off for someone who appreciated nature in their life.

Whatever the reason may be, a nature conscious burial is a beneficial option to consider. Keep reading below for more information about why this is.

Your Guide to Understanding Natural Burial and Green Funerals

What Is a Natural Burial?

In the past, what is now known as a “natural burial” was just a regular burial. It’s only relatively recently that people began using formaldehyde and other chemicals for embalming, and using caskets made of artificial material that don’t biodegrade easily.

A natural burial is a return to the roots of this important life ceremony. These types of burials do not include embalming fluids and non-biodegradable caskets. Instead, the remains are buried using a biodegradable coffin or a simple shroud. It usually takes place in natural  and woodland surroundings; often on land managed for nature conservation or as a section of a larger traditional cemetery.

Headstones are not generally used for these kind of burial. What memorialisation is permitted by the site can vary from a wooden plaque or tree, to nothing at all. We have heard of sites where the land is managed as a wild flower meadows, the graves are not marked at all; where, if you wish to visit, you are given a GPS device to find the grave.

This practice is also known as a green burial or woodland burial.

Finding a Green Burial Ground

The UK is now abundant with green burial sites with more than 260 of them available. It’s often hard to identify these peaceful places as cemeteries. They often look like another beautiful meadow or forest. Some sites will have a building on-site to hold ceremonies in and an attended office to liaise with staff; whereas others may just be a farmers field allotted for burials.

Take a look at our Funeral Planning Page as a resource for finding your local green burial sites. We highly recommend the Natural Death Centre for accessing advice about arranging natural burials and the more practical aspects around death and dying.

Planning a Natural Burial

Once you’ve decided on having a natural burial, you can begin planning and contact burial professionals about arrangements. Get in touch with the burial sites of your choice, or ask your funeral director to assist you.

Next you should consider what biodegradable coffin is right for your loved one. These range from beautiful handcrafted wicker or willow coffins to something as simple as cardboard. You can also use coffins made of other natural materials such as bamboo, banana leaves, seagrass or rattan.

We recommend that you consider where the coffin has been made; to assess if it is suitability in line with your values, along with the quality. Handmade coffins sourced in the UK are generally of a very reliable quality and retain their green credentials, by not having travelled around the globe.

Ask your burial site manager or funeral director about any other specifics regarding your chosen site. Are cotton shrouds allowed? What kind of marker can you put on the grave?

How Much Does Greener Burial Cost?

One great benefit of greener burials is that they often cost less than traditional funerals. Different burial sites have different prices for their plots, some costing more than others. Additionally, there are internment and grave digging fees.

You may even have the option of planting a tree to mark the burial site. Trees can vary in cost, but it’s a comforting thought to know your loved one will be supporting new life.

Of all the settings for a funeral, eco-friendly burials do give scope to have a higher involvement in the process and reduce costs. There are sites where it is permitted to dig the grave yourself to save on fees and even time; also most will be happy for you to undertake the funeral without the use of a funeral director, if this is your wish.

What can work well is to have partial use of a funeral director; to transport and care for the body only, while you arrange the rest of the funeral and formalities.

Making Green Funeral Arrangements

If you feel a natural burial is right for your loved one, it’s time to make arrangements. Preparing for this kind of burial means sourcing a coffin made with natural materials and doing your research to find an approved burial site.

To find a beautiful biodegradable coffin that suits a natural or green burial, please take your time browsing our basket caskets and natural willow coffins.