The essence of a green funeral is age-old elemental simplicity. It rejects the so-called traditional funeral with its stuffy, Victorian, urban look, in favour of an outdoorsy, homespun, back-to-nature look. It prefers an unspoilt landscape to that of a regimented conventional cemetery. If it’s a look you like, natural burial is as lovely as it gets.
Some of the more important elements of a green funeral are these:
opts for burial in a site serving a conservation purpose
creates an environment which is not visually definable as a burial ground
requires a coffin or shroud locally made from natural, sustainable materials
forbids demarcation of the grave
forbids marking or personalising of the grave with any sort of permanent memorial
forbids tending of the grave
It is not the grave that commemorates the life lived, it is the entire site.
Some burial grounds will let you mark the grave with a temporary marker, usually a wooden one. Others will let you mark the grave with a small, simply-worded stone marker laid flat. Some will allow nothing at all.
If you are considering natural burial you need to think very hard about this. Many people find it very difficult to lose sight of exactly where a person is buried.
Those natural burial grounds which permit a certain amount of gardening of the grave find it impossible to hold the line. Graves start to get cluttered with all sorts of memorial items: plaster figures, wind chimes, teddy bears, artificial flowers. You find bedecked graves next to unkempt graves – graves as nature intended. The burial ground begins to look like a shanty town of the dead.
The best look is probably the there’s-nobody-here look.
You can green your funeral with one of a variety of ethically sourced coffins which are just as attractive to people who simply like the look of them. Have a look at the coffin page. You may prefer a lovely leaf shroud from Bellacouche.
If you like to source your goods locally, and entertain intuitive misgivings about willow coffins from Poland or bamboo from China, you may be relieved to find that their carbon footprint is often no greater than that of our homegrown ones.
The Natural Death Centre spearheads the UK’s back-to-nature burial movement. For more info and a comprehensive list of all natural burial sites, check out their website. There’s another little info website here.
Assess the environmental impact of your funeral: www.iccm-uk.com/downloads/Ken.pdf.
A very much fuller and more detailed guide to creating a green funeral appears in the Good Funeral Guide. Order your copy here.
Going Out Green – a review of the book Going Out Green by Bob Butz.
All shades of green in the green shade – natural burial grounds’ green credentials.
Green shoots – the relaunch in May 2009 of the Natural Death Centre.
Natural burial – it’s against nature! – maintenance regimes in natural burial grounds.
Recomposition – eco-friendliest burial depth.
Burial depth – my last word – more on ideal burial depth and the marauding propensities of foxes and badgers.
Sky’s the limit – photos showing sky burial. Warning: not for the fainthearted!!
If you’re interested in finding out more while supporting us in our work, why not consider joining the Good Funeral Guild?