Woodland burials (also known as a Natural Burial) is all about keeping things as simple and natural as possible – returning to nature in a way that will not harm the environment, but will actually preserve the landscape and enhance opportunities for wildlife – it’s about leaving the world a better place, and is increasingly becoming the environmentally-friendly choice.
The general principles of this kind of burial are that the body is not to be embalmed (as the main chemicals involved in this process can be environmentally hazardous), biodegradable coffins (cardboard, bamboo, seagrass, willow or sustainable wood) or shrouds are used, and that a native tree or shrub is then often (but not always) planted on, or close to, the grave instead of a large stone memorial.
A GPS co-ordinate, scannable micro-chip, or even just a small flat engraved stone or wooden plaque may also be used to identify the grave depending on the regulations of the chosen burial ground. The site is managed to encourage native wildlife, plants and wildflowers.
Grounds can be run by private individuals, companies, councils, or charities, and many are members of ANBG (Association of Natural Burial Grounds) which has a strict code of practice. Whichever site you choose, try to always visit it first to make sure it’s to your liking, and ask questions such as how long the burial rights last, and how the site will be protected in the future once it is full. There are over 220 sites now dotted around the UK, all emanating from a single site in Carlisle which opened in 1993. It is estimated that with overcrowding issues in many traditional urban burial grounds, green burials could become very much the norm within a generation or two
List of Green Woodland Natural Burial Grounds
Coming soon – but to get us underway, please check out the link below for a few options.
Choosing a Woodland Burial
With the growing interest in eco-friendly activities, many businesses are starting to adopt a natural mindset, including the funeral service. In the UK, people are starting to look for an alternative to the traditional grave and cremation ceremony, and the answer is woodland burial.
Woodland burial is a natural funeral option that is on the popularity rise. First appears in 1993 at Carlisle Cemetery, Woodland burials are now available at more than 260 sites across the UK.
If you are considering an eco-friendly funeral for the loved one—or for yourself, then there are some things you may need to think about.
Understanding Woodland Burials
Before jumping into the planning phase, let’s start by considering what kind of benefit woodland burial would introduce.
Woodland Burial Does Not Produce Harmful Repercussions To The Environment
Unlike other kinds of burial methods, woodland burial is safe for nature. The practice will protect the environment as well as leave a lasting and positive contribution towards woodland preservation for future generations.
On the other hand, cremation and burials—as the most popular burial methods—are producing negative effects, including the release of toxic chemical compounds, wasting a considerable amount of energy, and taking a vast amount of land until it hardly fits, and the potential dilapidated gravestones and vandalism.
Woodland Burial Is Cheaper
According to Mike Jarvis, director of Natural Death Centre, eco-friendly funerals are relatively inexpensive compared to traditional burials and cremation ceremonies.
“Cemeteries have more outgoings & costs in terms of headstones, maintaining grounds, internal roads, and so on,” says Jarvis. This is apparent since the inclusion of more expensive and less eco-friendly coffins, as well as headstones and embalming, are not allowed for woodland burials.
Discuss With Family Ahead Of Time
This might be obvious, but making any decision after the fact is hardly prudent when grief and a sense of hurry are at their strongest—carefully examining options before the death date is important.
By properly discussing it with family, friends, and relatives, it will make things easier for them to prepare should the date of death come.
Get Familiar With The Different Types Of Natural Burial Grounds
Not all natural burial grounds are the same. Simply put, woodland burials are generally divided into two categories.
Truly Natural Burial Grounds
These types of sites are in a real effort of preserving nature to its natural condition by applying rigid rules for funerals proceeding. The perpetuity of the burial sites is also guaranteed.
At its core, there are two levels of real natural burial grounds:
Hybrid Burial Grounds
This kind of burial ground acts like a traditional burial cemetery. However, they are still categorised as ‘green’ burials site since eco-friendly rules apply, such as the prohibition of body embalmment and the requirement for a biodegradable casket, although gravestone is usually still allowed.
Exclusive Natural Burial Grounds
These grounds are adopting stricter policies compared to hybrid burial grounds in order to conserve energy and minimise waste. The regulations may include embalming prohibition, organic coffin and casket, no cement or metal vaults, and no traditional gravestone.
Some natural burial grounds can also be categorized as “conservation burial grounds.” The rules adopted can be even more rigid. These sites are run by organisations aiming to keep the natural state of the site undisturbed. Burial ceremonies are one of the monetary sources of funding.
‘Natural Burial Grounds’ Only In The Name
These kinds of sites would simply plant trees, but no factual eco-friendly rules are being implemented. The perseverance methods of nature and the burial graves are also unclear. Normally, this type of burial ground should be avoided.
Obtain A Reliable Funeral Director
A good funeral director is more likely to recommend a decent natural woodland burial ground near you. Not only that, but they can also guide you in obeying the distinct requirements or restrictions on burial-related things. Furthermore, they should be able to explain all the expenses needed in arranging the burial ceremony.
For reference, some websites offer a way to find a funeral director online, including Funeral Guide
Determine Your Necessities
Before deciding, you need to keep in mind what kind of services or necessities that you would expect to have for you or the loved one who will be buried. To be precise, take a look at the following list:
Gravedigging And Interment Cost
Gravedigging or interment may incur additional costs besides the funeral slot fee. These expenses can differ from the traditional burial grounds as well as between natural burial sites. Some natural burials may also offer family members the option to dig the grave, transport the body, and/or other procedures if requested. Keep in contact with your funeral director and make sure you understand the payment details.
Planting A Tree For The Deceased
Most, but not all, natural woodland burials will provide the service where trees or flowers can be planted on the grave as a replacement for the tombstone. Besides, they may also offer a map so families can easily visit the gravesite. Otherwise, the bereaved can also treat the whole woodland site as the loved one’s memorial.
Get Familiar With The Burial Site
To get the most out of woodland burial, having full awareness of how the site looks and how it is maintained is a huge plus. There are a few things you can do.
Personally Visit The Burial Site
Visiting the site personally is useful to get a feel of the place as well as find the exact position of the grave—if possible. Time after time, friends and families will most likely visit the place every once in a while. To make things convenient, consider the distance between the burial site and the families’ homes when picking the burial ground.
Ask The Funeral Ground Manager
Adequate knowledge is indispensable for a successful funeral. In this case, having clear communication with the funeral site manager/owner is essential. You might find out how well the site is maintained and managed for years to come. Good relations with the site owner will also get you a bunch of other useful information that only they would know.
Too Far From The Burial Site? There Are Alternatives
Sometimes, finding an appropriate woodland burial site is not a walk in the park. People might need to drive tens if not hundreds of miles to get to the ground. If expecting family members and friends to attend the funeral in a normal way could be too tough, there are some alternatives you can consider.
Option 1: Organise The Funeral At Home, Then Transport The Body.
You can rely on a funeral home that has a refrigeration unit to freeze and transport the body to the site without using embalmment. With this, relatives and friends can hold the funeral ceremony at home before the body is taken to the burial ground.
Option 2: Hold Memorial Service After The Deceased Is Buried
Instead of holding a ceremony before the burial process, you can hold it after the body is buried. This will ensure that friends and families who are unable to attend the funeral at the site can gather and honour plus share memories of the deceased.
Option 3: Arrange A Green Burial On A Private Land
This option is also eligible given a family member, close friend, or you are willing to use private property as a green burial site. Keep in mind, however, that you need to obey local regulations as well as provide awareness to future owners if necessary.
Other Things To Consider
Beware of scams and mismanagement. It’s great to have thorough planning beforehand, but if possible, avoid prepaying for things that can be paid after the fact.
Furthermore, a burial ground with a perpetual care fund is preferable to ensure that the site will be preserved continuously.
We hope that the information you found in this article would help you when choosing a woodland burial. Know that taking the environment into account, even regarding death, will surely help safeguard woodlands or even promote them back to their full glory.