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Planning Retirement Online

Green Burials               

May 2010  

Green Burials

Bluebell Wood

Image courtesy of Herongate Wood ( )

When I was a child, funerals were very traditional. One always wore black, they usually took place in a church;

the coffin was wood and if a burial was decided upon rather than cremation, then the burial always took place in a churchyard.

What a difference a few years make! Today you will experience a range of bright colours and modern cheerful music at funerals, and there is also such a choice of services and styles.

Green burials are becoming very fashionable indeed and there are two key aspects to this. The first is the coffin, and here the traditional wooden coffins can be replaced with bamboo, willow or wicker which are considered greener options to the normal heavy wood that used to be the norm. Biodegradable cardboard or papier maché are also very popular choices and these offer a wide choice in design and colour – a friend has even been to a funeral where everyone wrote a final message on the cardboard coffin. She said this worked so well and was a very moving aspect of the service.

The price of greener coffins is also very good, a cardboard coffin can cost from just £60 upwards. Overall, the cost of a green burial can be about the same or even less than a traditional cremation.

The second aspect is the location. Traditional burial grounds are becoming full and memorials and tombstones become neglected over years with little money for maintenance. Because of crowding, some cemeteries are now having to incorporate second tier burials in their grounds, over very old graves that no longer have close connections with living friends and relations.

Natural burial sites in green areas or woodland avoid all this; they offer a natural form of burial and can provide important benefits, encouraging the regeneration of flora and fauna and giving a true sense of creating life from death.

The first green or woodland burial site opened in Carlisle in 1993 and today there are more than 200 sites across the UK.

Green burials have become so popular that now there are many funeral directors and other specialists offering these services. Some have sophisticated areas of land with beautiful tranquil surroundings and carefully managed landscaped backdrops for people who wish to hold the entire ceremony at the location. Some can offer full services including a chapel of rest, a hall of remembrance, car parking and other facilities; others are far more simple country sites.

To avoid legal complications and bureaucracy, the grounds of these green burial sites are often not consecrated, although priests can bless individual plots. A burial service can be held at a church followed by a green burial, or all aspects can be undertaken at the site. Civil celebrants can take a service or families can conduct their own personal farewell tributes.

After the internment has taken place and a period of time has passed to allow the grave to settle, a tree is often planted at the foot or head of the grave. This is a wonderful permanent memorial to the lost loved one.

Some sites will take advance reservation; I spoke to Herongate Wood ( and they said advance reservations are becoming more and more popular. However, they also pointed out that at large specialist country sites such as theirs, there shouldn’t be any problems if people decide on a green burial at the very last minute.

There is a lot of information now available about green burials and due to their growing popularity, there is bound to be an authorized site near to you. Just put “green burials” into your search engine and there will be numerous addresses. Your local council may also have some good information available.


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