Natural, eco or green burials

Considering a natural, green or eco funeral and burial? Here is Protect Your Family’s guide to all things eco funeral.
A natural burial is deemed as one where the internment of the human remains causes the least amount of environmental damage. Therefore, in a green burial or funeral, the remains aren’t embalmed, the coffin is made of biodegradable and natural materials and the buried body creates a habitat for wildlife and nature.
Natural burials are also known as green or eco burials or funerals and they reject the traditional funeral and burial traditions, instead embracing the fact that the body is returned to the ground in the most environmentally friendly way to contribute to the natural eco system.
As part of a green or eco funeral:
  • There is no cremation, as this can be detrimental to the environment.
  • The burial takes place at a green burial ground, which doesn't have gravestones to mark the area of burial, keeping the ground as natural as possible.
  • The body isn’t embalmed – therefore the chemicals from embalming aren’t left in the ground.
  • The coffin is made from natural and biodegradable materials.
  • Usually no marking or personalisation of the grave spot, although some will allow family to put a small flat marker on the ground.
  • Woodland burials are also becoming increasingly popular, where the grave plot is marked with a tree or shrub.
There are now hundreds of natural and woodland burial sites around the UK. If you, or a family member wishes to have a natural, green, eco burial or a woodland burial, then you can ask the advice of your funeral director (some of whom specialise in natural funerals) or search online.
Which coffins are eco friendly and allowed at a woodland or natural burial?
Traditional coffins are made of varnished wood and so are not particularly eco friendly – the difference with a natural coffin is that it is made of a sustainable, biodegradable material which won’t pollute the ground it is buried in.
They can be made from:
  • Wicker
  • Cardboard
  • Banana leaf
  • Willow
  • Wicker
Some woodland or green burial sites will also only allow the body to be buried in a cotton shroud, which is again more biodegradable than other kinds of clothing. This is something that your funeral director or natural or woodland burial site will make you aware of.
Does an eco funeral cost more?
As with everything in life, it depends what you want.
The costs are comparable to a traditional funeral, but if you need extras such as a tree or shrub to mark the spot, they may be more expensive.
In some areas, there aren’t any local authority run woodland or green burial sites, and therefore they are run by private companies, which could cost more, but if you reduce costs around flowers and other extras then the costs will be comparable.
Wicker and willow coffins can cost a bit more than a traditional oak veneered coffin, whilst cardboard coffins can range in price, depending on if you want them decorated or not.
If you are planning or arranging a natural funeral then it’s likely that the eco credentials of the ceremony will outweigh the difference in cost, but at Protect Your Family we realise that everyone has a personal preference for their final send-off they’d like, depending on budgets whether it be traditional, green or otherwise.
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