A natural burial is when someone who dies is buried in a green space like a wildflower meadow or woodland. No chemicals are used for embalming. And no coffins that won’t easily biodegrade either. The idea is that the body will return back to the earth in the most natural way possible and in the most eco-friendly way too.
What is a natural burial ground?
A natural burial ground is a green space such as a private park, woodland or meadow where people can be buried without a permanent grave marker. The site owners will look after the grounds making sure that native plants and wildlife can live undisturbed. It’s usually owned privately or by a trust and you won’t see any headstones like traditional cemeteries or graveyards.
Some natural burial sites may have a small hall or building where funeral ceremonies can take place. But others may just offer graveside services to keep the grounds as natural as they can.
Some sites have strict rules about memorials and planting trees. Here’s what you can expect. Hopefully it’ll help you figure out if it’s the right option for you.
No permanent grave markers
To make sure the natural habitats of wildlife on the grounds aren’t disturbed there are usually no permanent grave markers allowed. That could mean no plaques or benches at all. Or it could mean small wooden plaques are allowed if they’ll break down over a short space of time and don’t interfere with other habitats.
Check this with the owner when you get in touch to see what is and isn’t allowed. You may be comfortable with no grave marker at all especially if you’d like a natural burial to reduce your impact on the environment. Talking this through with family members may help too. Some may find it difficult not to see a grave marker when remembering a loved one who’s passed away.
A biodegradable coffin or shroud
The aim of a natural burial is to have as little impact on the environment as possible. Traditional burials with a coffin or casket tend to use chemicals and other materials that get into the soil and air. This could interfere with plants and other wildlife. So most natural burials sites ask for a biodegradable coffin or shroud to be used instead. Biodegradable coffins can be made from willow, seagrass, bamboo or cardboard.
Rules for planting and flowers
Every site will have its own rules about whether planting trees is allowed or not. Some allow it and some only allow a certain type of plant that’s native to the area. This can be the same for flower arrangements. Or you might find that the owner of the site can recommend a florist who will make sure any flower arrangements are made entirely with biodegradable materials.
Can you be cremated for natural burial?
The aim of natural burial is to reduce the impact burials have on the environment. Cremation uses fuel and causes air pollution. So it may not be the best option if you’d like a natural burial because you’re worried about the environment.
That’s not to say that you can’t be cremated and then have your ashes buried or scattered in a more natural setting. There are many organisations that will help you and your family plan this. And some natural burial sites offer this option too.
How much does a natural burial cost?
As most natural burial sites are privately owned they’ll all have their own price lists. So the cost may change from site to site. Here’s an estimated breakdown of costs* to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay for a natural burial.
Things to consider
Burial plot (for coffin)
This is for a standard plot. You may find that double plots or children’s plots cost more or less than this.
Burial plot (for ashes)
This is for one pot. Some sites will reserve an ashes plot for 2 or more pots of ashes to be buried.
Interment fees (for coffin)
Extra fees could be charged for coffins that are larger than average.
Interment fees (for ashes)
Grave digging fee (for coffin)
Extra fees could be charged depending on which burial site you choose. This is because many natural burial grounds don’t use machinery to dig graves. They dig by hand instead. So a wildflower meadow for example may be more difficult to prepare than a field.
Grave digging fee (for ashes)
Some grave digging fees will be part of the overall cost of the natural burial plot so check this with the owner.
Memorial (if allowed)
Price varies a lot depending on the type of memorial.
Some natural burial site owners will allow memorials made from wood or slate. Or they may allow a memory tree to be planted. Check what’s allowed when you get in touch.
Keep in mind that these costs don’t include the funeral service or the funeral director’s fees if you use one to help you coordinate the service and burial. You can learn more about funeral costs here.
Is a natural burial right for you?
Now you know more about natural burials you may find it’s the right option for you and your funeral plans. But here are just a few more things to consider before you make up your mind:
Your nearest natural burial site may not be just around the corner. Would your family be okay with travelling a bit further to visit?
Tell your family and friends that you’re thinking about a natural burial. How do they feel about it? Would they be happy if you didn’t have a permanent grave marker?
Do you feel comfortable with the idea of not having a traditional coffin? Explore all your options when you contact a natural burial site to find what’s suitable for you.