In recent years there has been an increase in the number of people rejecting traditional burial customs and opting for a burial that better suits their beliefs, attitudes toward death and personal philosophy. One of the ways in which this has manifested itself is in an increase in demand for natural burial.

While traditional burial methods are still the popular choice, natural burial is emerging as a popular alternative way of conducting a funeral. As with all matters relating to death, it’s important to consider the wishes of the deceased and to fulfil them as far as possible, regardless of whether they coincide with contemporary attitudes and practices. With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at natural burial in a little more depth so that you can decide if it’s suitable for the funeral you’re arranging, or perhaps if it’s something you might consider specifying within your own funeral plan.


What is natural burial?

A natural burial attempts to return a body to the earth in as natural a way as possible. This generally involves a rejection of embalming processes, cremation and caskets or coffins that won’t biodegrade with time and often takes place in green spaces, such as wildflower meadows, protected woodland and park land.

Some natural burial sites will allow graves to be marked while others do not permit any identifying features whatsoever, in effect turning the whole site into a memorial.


What are the advantages of a natural burial?

Depending on your personal perspective on death, there can be a number of benefits and advantages to natural burials. First and foremost, they are a far more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional burial.

As both embalming and the use of traditional coffins and caskets significantly slows natural decomposition, a traditional burial can have a lasting impact on the immediate environment. Natural burials, on the other hand, reject these processes in order to return the body to the earth in as natural a way as possible and to help it become part of the natural life cycle by returning the body to the very soil from which everything grows.

Natural burials can also be considerably less expensive than traditional burials and often play an important role in conservation efforts. When spaces are set up as natural burial grounds, they are protected from development and have a long-term future as a wild space in which nature is allowed to thrive.


Who is a natural burial for?

Natural burials are for everyone, but may particularly appeal to those that desire a more simple burial process, to those that believe that the body is best returned to the earth upon death, and to those with a passion for conservationism.

Though embalming processes can be found in some ancient cultures and have been practiced in some form or another for much of human history, it’s only recently that chemical embalming has been culturally normalised for the general population. In contrast, natural burials are the way in which bodies would have traditionally been committed to the ground before widespread urbanisation became an important factor in determining how we bury our dead.

A natural burial is the perfect choice then for anyone who enjoyed spending time in unspoilt nature and who was environmentally conscious.


How can I find out more about natural burials?

Natural burial sites can vary a great deal and it’s a good idea to do a little research before you choose a site. The Natural Death Centre maintains a list of natural burial sites in the UK, so you’re best off finding one that is nearest to you and then visiting it to be sure that it is exactly as you’d like. Remember that sites will vary in many ways, such as in the extent to which you’re allowed to mark a burial plot, and in terms of the wildlife present there.

You can also read our feature on GreenAcres, one of the most established natural burial grounds in the UK, and our interview with the Association of Green Funeral Directors.


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