Green Burials and Green Funerals

Green funerals are becoming more and more common as people search for alternatives to traditional types of funeral. These funerals are a wonderful alternative for people who do not wish to be cremated or buried in a faith-based burial site.

What is a green funeral?

A green funeral is a funeral which ends in the deceased being buried in a special woodland, meadow or pasture site, rather than being cremated or buried in a traditional graveyard. The ceremony can take place at the plot immediately before burial; however some people will choose to have a traditional ceremony before transporting the coffin to the green burial site. A few green burial sites have their own hall or venue onsite to allow people to organise indoor ceremonies close to the intended plot.

What is so special about a green burial site?

Green burial sites are areas of land which have been opened up specifically for burying human remains. These sites usually have strict regulations to ensure that only biodegradable coffins and environmentally friendly processes are used when laying the deceased to rest. They often have additional regulations about what loved ones can place onto the grave. The aim is that these sites will eventually become mature woodland or wild meadow areas. Some of these burial sites are also used for grazing animals.

Unlike most traditional faith-appropriate plots, green sites are normally not marked by headstones or static memorials. In some cases, the land will remain completely unmarked, as the whole site is designed to commemorate those who are buried there. If you are considering a green burial, you may want to check with the chosen site as to whether they offer any special options to prevent visitors from losing the right plot.

Why would someone want to be buried in a green burial site?

Many churchyards and faith-based burial sites in the United Kingdom are becoming “overcrowded”. Most local councils struggle to offer enough burial plots in their areas, because they are running out of space. Traditional coffins take a long time to degrade, so it is impossible to bury more people in these areas without disturbing the graves of those who are already buried there. Over time, traditional coffins can also cause some environmental pollution. Likewise, cremation can cause the release of major pollutants into the atmosphere and uses high levels of energy as part of the incineration process. Green burials are considered to be less harmful to the environment than the alternatives are.

Because the remains of the deceased are able to decompose naturally at green burial sites, they help to re-enrich the ground in which they are buried. Once the green burial site is able to develop into woodland or wild meadow, the areas should also become natural habitats for a wide variety of different wildlife. They should also become pleasant spaces for relatives and loved ones to enjoy in a number of different ways.

The rules and regulations which are set out by the site owner should help to keep the area looking like a meadow, pasture or woodland, rather than a graveyard. Some people prefer this appearance and atmosphere to the silent and sombre tone which is often maintained in a traditional graveyard area.

What types of coffin are used for green burials?

The main requirement of any coffin used at a green burial site is that it is biodegradable. Although treated wooden coffins will start to decompose eventually, they can have a very long lifespan. Whilst some green burial sites will allow untreated wooden coffins, most prefer caskets which will start to decompose more quickly. Available options include; cardboard, wicker, bamboo and banana leaf. Speak to your funeral director to see what biodegradable options they have available.

Are green burial sites available throughout the United Kingdom?

The first green burial site was established in Carlisle in 1993. Since then, an increasing number of sites have opened up across the country. There are currently between 200 and 300 green burial sites in the United Kingdom. Most of these sites accept people who do not live in the local area. To find your nearest green burial ground, you can contact the Association of Natural Burial Grounds. This organisation has also developed a Code of Conduct to help green burial grounds to maintain minimum standards.

If you cannot find an appropriate green burial site in the area that you are hoping for, you may be permitted to organise a burial on private land outside of a designated burial site. However, you must make sure that local regulations are being adhered to, including regulations on the depth at which the coffin is buried. You must obtain a certificate to confirm that the burial is lawful. If you need any advice or help in arranging for a loved one to be buried on private land, speak to your funeral director.

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