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A green or eco-friendly coffin
Woodland or green burial
What is a woodland or green burial?
The purpose of this page is to provide as much information as possible based upon the experiences of the people working in the funeral service who have developed this website.
Woodland burial options and green or eco-friendly funerals do give people peace of mind but anyone considering these options must also be aware of other considerations.
It is important to realise that there is a difference between woodland burials and/or eco-funerals and non-religious or humanist funeral services.
For many people the combination of a non-religious service and a green funeral with a cardboard coffin may be ideal, but it is not necessarily the same.
One family may want a bamboo coffin and a Catholic Requiem Mass in church followed by a burial in the garden of a family member — all of which can be arranged.
Another family may want a non-religious funeral service using a traditional-shaped coffin followed by a burial in a green cemetery.
For further information about humanist non-religious funerals see Pre-funeral planning.
All funerals whether they are simple, traditional, alternative or environmentally aware, are made up of the "service element" and the "physical aspect".
The type of funeral service that should be arranged should naturally reflect an individual's character, their way of life, beliefs and ideals.
The physical element of a funeral and the only part that will have any effect upon the environment is the coffin. For more information about environmentally friendly coffins click here.
Woodland burial offers a natural form of burial and can provide important environmental benefits as well as giving a true sense of creating life from death.
In recognition of public concern for environmental matters many cemeteries up and down the country are now able to offer this alternative to traditional practices of burial and cremation.
Many people have different concepts of green and woodland burials but generally it can be defined as an environmentally-friendly way of disposing of human remains.
Usually there is an area of the cemetery which has been set-aside for people who do not wish to have a traditional burial but who wish to be buried.
Once a burial has taken place the grave remains "forever" in the natural setting of woodland. It is envisaged that as the woodland begins to mature, it will become a haven for wildlife and wild flowers. This is a return to nature in the true sense and will create a haven of peace and tranquillity.
For many landowners and municipal cemetery authorities the reason for developing woodland cemeteries is borne out of a genuine desire to provide something different and provide an eco-friendly alternative. Unfortunately there may be some who could be exploiting a perceived need for short term financial gain and the long term wishes of the deceased and their relatives may not be carried out satisfactorily. When considering this option ask yourself the following questions:
- What stops the cemetery from being sold to property developers in the long term?
- Can the current owners of the cemetery lease the land to anybody they want at some point in the future?
- Is there a deed or trust document protecting the cemetery from commercial exploitation in the future?
- What happens if the current owner dies, sells their interest or simply moves on?
Many of the cemeteries up and down the country will not allow a grave in the woodland area to be reserved, and the option of a specific grave position is not always available. Many grave sites will be recorded on a plan and some may be given a marker to indicate the graves, other sites are left to nature with no grave marker.
Exclusive rights (ownership) of the graves can range from 25 years to 100 years depending on the cemetery. Unfortunately each grave will only accept a single burial, because to return after a period of time to open a grave for a double burial would damage the maturing woodland. Cremated remains can also be placed in an existing grave.
Some people describe graves that have only a single use option as "a waste of land" and "not very environmentally-friendly" compared with existing cemeteries and existing burial arrangements where several people can be buried in the same grave.
After the interment has taken place and a period of time has passed to allow the grave to settle, a traditional tree is planted at the foot or head of the grave. The trees are usually planted during the right season and then the area is managed to ensure maximum tree growth and to create conditions for wild flowers and nature to flourish. This kind of cemetery management may result in trees being removed to allow sufficient sunlight to reach the ground, consequently some graves may not have trees replanted.