As people have become increasingly environmentally aware, over the last decade or so, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of natural or green burials. People see them as a logical extension to their ecological thinking and as an environmentally- and eco-friendly way of returning one’s body to the earth.
Green and woodland burials now account for around 5,000 burials each year. While this is a small percentage of the total, it is growing in popularity, year-on-year. Burial grounds include existing woodlands and meadows, or agricultural land converted into new woodlands or meadows. However, the majority of burials take place in woodlands and such sites have increased from only one in 1993 to over 200 today. Many of these are quite small, but others have capacity for several thousand burials. The sites are not usually consecrated and are available to anybody of whatever their religion or belief. Such burial sites may be run by charities and non-profit businesses, local authorities, as well as private business.
Advantages of Green Burials
The benefits for you and your family include:
a serene, beautiful place for your family and friends to visit;
lower burial costs;
less worry about future upkeep, e.g. no headstones to maintain;
fewer concerns about neglect and vandalism;
better for the environment;
a wood, or meadow for future generations to enjoy;
a tranquil resting place without broken or vandalised headstones;
a natural habitat for fauna and flora;
a carbon neutral burial solution.
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Green Burials – Special Considerations
The locations may or may not have a building where the service can be held, so it may have to be held outside.
You should check how long the burial rights will last and what happens to the grave when these run out or when the site is full.
Headstones are usually not allowed, but the grave can be marked by a stone or plaque on the ground or a tree planted beside it.
Simplicity is often key in such funeral services and therefore costs are often lower than for traditional graveyard burials or cremations. Aspects and costs to consider include:
the plot (currently approximately £500-£800);
the cost of digging the grave;
biodegradable coffin required (coffin can be standard or decorated to taste);
arranging the collection of the body;
biodegradable shrouds for the body;
a memorial tree;
a memorial plaque;
marking the grave with a microchip or GPS coordinates to allow it to be located easily in the absence of a headstone.
The Natural Death Centre; website: www.naturaldeath.org.uk; address: NDC, In The Hill House, Watley Lane, Twyford, Winchester, SO21 1QX; helpline: tel: 0871 288 2098. NDC has a wealth of information and contacts for people interested in organising environmentally-friendly funerals. The Centre also publishes ‘The Natural Death Handbook’.
The Association of Natural Burial Grounds (ANBG); website: www.anbg.co.uk; address: 12a Blackstock Mews, Blackstock Road, London N4 2BT; tel: 0871 288 2098. ANBG was set up in 1994 by The Natural Death Centre to assist in the creation of such schemes. The ANBG has also published a Code of Practice which creates a standard for its members and ensures your peace of mind.
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Martin Heikens – About the Author:
For more information and resources on Funeral Services and Green Burials, please visit the Funeral Services Guide.