What are Green and Natural Burials?

Green and natural burials are the most eco-friendly funeral you can have; we’ll take you through how the process works so that you can decide whether this type of funeral is right for you.

A less conventional burial

The terms green burial, natural burial, woodland burial and eco-burials are commonly used to describe the same thing. Generally, this is the concept of a burial in a less conventional, often rural setting that deliberately avoids the formal layout of conventional cemeteries – with no stone memorialisation and often the graves unmarked for nature to take over.

Burials in these locations are ideal if you like the idea of the body giving back to the Earth once the person who has died has no more need of it. These burials are as equally respectful and dignified as other burials. They can follow a more traditional religious or non-religious ceremony, but hint at the lifestyle and principles of the person who has died with this choice of their final resting place.

There are over 200 natural burial sites in the UK; these are thoughtfully kept to look like wildflower meadows or forests. Whilst they are designed to be serene, calming places, it’s wise to visit beforehand to ensure you feel good about the site. We’ve collated a list of local natural burial sites for you to research and visit.

What is a green or natural burial?

Green and natural burials are designed to have minimal impact on the environment. Unlike with a traditional burial, no embalming chemicals are used. The coffin is crafted from material that breaks down in soil quickly and safely, like willow (wicker), seagrass, woollen and en√iroboard (cardboard effect). Within around two years, the body of the person who has died will return to the soil, nourishing the ground and helping trees and plants to grow in the future.

What happens during a green and natural burial?

Natural burial sites are unconsecrated ground, but you are welcome to ask the religious figure of your choosing to consecrate the individual plot. This enables people of all religions and beliefs to be buried in these surroundings.

As with a traditional burial, the ceremony itself can be held in the venue of your choice, whether that’s a place of worship, by the graveside or another appropriate place.

At the burial, the person who has died will be carefully lowered into the ground within their biodegradable coffin, and after laying flowers or other safely biodegradable items on the coffin, soil will be placed on top.

There will not be a headstone; in some instances a tree can be planted or a wooden memorial plaque may mark the spot, but often loved ones will have to rely on their memory or a map when returning to visit. They will be able to come to visit throughout the year.

The benefits of a green and natural burial

The reasons behind choosing a green and natural burial are compelling, especially if the person who has died consciously opted to support the environment in day-to-day life. It’s an ideal way to reiterate an important belief. Natural burial sites also do more to support abundant natural wildlife, particularly insect life, than the more traditionally well-kept cemeteries can.

The thought of planting a tree that will grow and support more life is comforting. However, for various reasons, many natural burial sites do not allow trees to be planted directly over the grave. The ground can settle dramatically in the months after burial, which could leave trees susceptible to falling over; tree roots can make the ground uneven and inaccessible for future burials.

Instead, many natural burial sites dedicate a copse where new trees can be planted and dedicated; alternatively, there are companies who will dedicate a tree globally to honour the person who has died. But even if planting a tree isn’t an option, the body of the person who has died will still nourish the flowers and grass of the natural burial ground, and many find this idea uplifting.

Natural burials are often more relaxed and less formal affairs, so tend to be more of a celebration of life, although this does of course vary on a case by case basis.

Local natural burial sites

We’ve collated a list of local natural burial sites for you to research and visit.

Planning the service

We’ve created a guide to the most important aspects of planning a service that you might need to consider, from venues and officiants to flowers, funeral transport and catering, and more.

Bereavement support

Grief is a natural reaction to loss and affects everyone differently. AB Walker understands this and offers aftercare support for those experiencing the loss of a loved one.

Other types of funeral

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