The recent upsurge in popularity of green, natural funerals and woodland burials mirrors the general increase in eco-awareness and the more proactive approach to environmental issues so evident in modern society.
Green, natural funerals & woodland burials explained
The terms green, eco, natural, carbon-offset, woodland or meadow burials are often used interchangeably to describe the many different types of eco-friendly funerals available, today.
Despite the minor differences in emphasis and detail, all green, natural funerals and woodland burials have one important factor in common; they all aim to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to the energy-depleting aspects associated with a more conventional burial or cremation.
However, what is less well known about eco-friendly funerals is that elements of both ‘green’ and ‘traditional’ can be combined within the same ceremony. Degrees of eco input may range from total commitment to minimising impact on the environment, e.g. a simple meadow or woodland burial, using a cardboard coffin or simple shroud, no embalming, eco transport, no flowers, grave or headstone, etc., to simply using a biodegradable coffin as part of what is, otherwise, a traditional funeral service.
Woodland, natural & green burial sites
Since the first green burial site was opened in Carlisle, in 1993, and the Association of Natural Burial Grounds (ANGB) was set up by the Natural Death Centre, in 1994, provision for natural burials has expanded to include around 220 eco funeral sites, across Britain, with more planned for the future. The majority of natural burial sites are run by local authorities, charitable trusts, wildlife charities and non-profit organisations, with an increasing number of new sites being developed by private landowners and local farmers.
More information about environmentally friendly burial sites and suppliers is contained in The Natural Death Book Handbook, available from the NDC (see Resources, below).
Find Woodland Burial Grounds here.
Locations for Eco friendly funerals & woodland burial sites
When choosing a natural burial ground, it is important to bear in mind that the types of eco environments available vary considerably from one site to another. For example, some sites allow you to reserve a plot, beforehand; others offer no such choice. Policies regarding tree planting may also differ, e.g. whether or not a specific tree can be planted to mark the grave. In addition, maintenance can range between total ‘return to nature’ and general seasonal upkeep. (If you’re worried about locating the grave for posterity, you can be reassured that natural burial sites use GPS tracking co-ordinates to record the exact location of interment). Types and styles of memorials and plaques permissible on green burial grounds is another consideration. Location may also be an issue for some people, as a number of woodland burial grounds are actually situated in an area set aside in established, traditional municipal cemeteries.
Costs for green eco funerals & woodland or meadow burials
Apart from the overriding benefits to the environment of choosing a green funeral or woodland burial, an eco-ending to life can also offer significant savings on funeral costs.
Environmentally friendly coffins are made from biodegradable and recycled materials, such as cardboard, papier-mâché, wicker and bamboo or FSC certified timber made from renewable sources.
The Natural Death Centre (NDC); website: www.naturaldeath.org.uk
The Association of Natural Burial Grounds (ANBG); website as for NDC: www.naturaldeath.org.uk
The Association of Green Funeral Directors: website: www.greenfd.org.uk