For many people today the idea of a green burial is hugely attractive. Not only are they designed to be more environmentally friendly in themselves, but a green funeral often contributes to the enhancement of a natural site or wildlife habitat.
Simplicity is the thing with natural burials. They remove all the pomp and ceremony that became a staple in the Victorian era, giving eco-funerals a more elemental feel. And for the ones left behind the idea of walking in a wood where a loved one has, say, a tree planted in their memory is more appealing than attending and attending to a grave.
So, What Does Having a Green Funeral Really Mean?
There are various ways to commemorate a person in an environmentally friendly way. Scattering ashes in ways that give back to the environment is common.
Solace Reef, a company in Weymouth have created a memorial reef where ashes can be laid on the sea floor to form a natural reef that encourages wildlife to thrive. People have their ashes scattered from drones or even from the edge of space.
But a truly green funeral wouldn’t usually involve cremation. Everything is biodegradable and will benefit he environment.
A typical green funeral would use the following eco-values as its basis:
- There would be no cremation
- The coffin is made from sustainable material and is biodegradable
- The body shouldn’t be embalmed. This is so that so as it decomposes no embalming fluids are being absorbed into the earth
- The burial site focuses on conservation and it might not be obvious that it’s a burial ground
- Graves are not defined and there are no permanent memorials
- While it’s usually ok to leave flowers, you will need to remove any plastic wrappings first
Natural Burial Sites – Look First and Make Sure You’re Happy
But before you begin to imagine ancient world-style fields of reeds, or an all-natural Valhalla, it’s definitely worth visiting first. Not all sites have the same rules and same standards. Some find it impossible to enforce any boundary and memorial rules, which allows for all sorts of bric-a-brac to accumulate in some ‘natural’ burial sites.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the site and happy with it as a place you might want to visit regularly.
Important: If you need to have the reassurance of a defined place to visit, you should think carefully before choosing a natural burial ground. Not all grounds allow markers and if you need the comfort of a specific grave location a natural burial ground might not be the solution for you.
How Does a Green Funeral Work?
Every natural burial ground will have its own process for holding the service. Some have a building where the mourners can gather before or after the service, some don’t.
But typically, the mourners will meet at the burial ground and depending on the facilities there may be a service beforehand. Then the coffin is conveyed by hearse to the burial plot or as near as it can get. The mourners will follow on foot (some grounds offer buggy-transport to aid anyone with walking difficulties).
Once everyone is at the graveside there is a short ceremony before the coffin is committed to the ground.
Again, depending on facilities, there may be a wake on the grounds, or you may decide to have a wake in a more central location.
With regards to placing memorials you will be advised of this by your funeral director or directly by the burial ground staff.
Etiquette at Natural Burial Grounds
When visiting a burial ground, it’s good to remember that even though it appears like a natural outdoor area, it is a place to be treated with respect. Some actions, even if unintentional, could cause additional distress to other people. While each ground may have its own set of etiquette rules, here are some general ones:
- Where there are paths, you should always stick to them and if graves are marked out, don’t walk over them
- You shouldn’t pick any flowers
- If dogs are allowed always clean up any mess
- Some burial grounds have the appearance of naturally wild park areas but in general picnics and barbeques are not allowed
- You should refrain from smoking on site
- You shouldn’t cycle or use a vehicle around the burial ground unless permitted
How Much Does a Green Funeral Cost?
The way the charges are laid out for a woodland burial are similar to the way the charges are structured for a traditional funeral.
You would need to consider:
- Cost of the burial plot
- Fees for digging the plot
- Minister or celebrant’s fees
- Cost of a tree (if you’re having one planted)
- Transport costs
So, it ultimately depends on what you want to have included in the final ceremony. It also depends on which site you choose and in which area it’s situated as these affect the price too. For example, one site in Hertfordshire charges £850 for a burial plot, another in Essex charges £1,545.
This is certainly not to say one is better (the less expensive ground has ‘protected’ status so it’s by no means a lesser burial ground) but they do offer different experiences and different facilities for people wishing to be buried naturally. And obviously their location is different too.
If you do want a less traditional funeral and want to discuss anything about green funerals the team at S. Stibbards and Sons can help. From advice on biodegradable coffins to choosing a site that’s perfect for your needs we’re well placed to help you decide.