What Is Meant by a Natural Funeral?

A resurgence in the discussion of green or natural funerals may give the impression that the concept of the simple burial is a new one. In truth, the funeral we may think of as typical today came into being around the end of the 19th century, on the heels of the industrial age. This was when the modern concept of the funeral parlor really took hold. It signified a movement indoors and away from centuries-old funeral practices that centered on the outdoors and a connection to nature. Currently there seems to be a revival of interest in burials that seek to keep a low and biodegradable profile in the landscape.

Basic Tenets of the Green Trend

The main idea behind the natural approach to burial lies in keeping the smallest possible carbon footprint after death. Also, the trend indicates an interest in preserving existing landscapes, even and perhaps especially those used to bury the dead. Some of the principal points of natural burial include:

Burial of the whole body no cremation

Conservational sites are preferable

Sites are not obviously burial grounds

No embalming

Environmentally sustainable caskets or none at all

No vertical stones

No permanent memorials

No tending of the grave

In a natural burial, the thought is that body and earth come together to celebrate and commemorate life in general. The body is viewed as sustenance for the surrounding trees, grass and wildflowers. As the body is interred without preserving chemicals, it is ready to start decomposing and feeding the earth immediately. When a coffin is used, the materials may be locally sourced or a sustainable wood or bamboo casket may be found from elsewhere. Alternatively, a leaf or mushroom shroud may be used to wrap and bury the body. People may even be wrapped in a favorite blanket. In many ways, green burial may be an affordable alternative to the traditional funeral. Without an expensive casket or extensive preservation methods, the cost of preparing a body for burial may be much reduced.

Keeping a Low Profile

For some, a natural burial means blending in as much as possible with the earth after death. With these sorts of burials it may be difficult to perceive exactly where the body was buried after a period of time. Not everyone who seeks a more natural burial desires quite so anonymous a grave. Some sites that support green burials allow a certain amount of marking of the burial area. Examples may range from a temporary wooden marker to a simple flat stone. Resistance to the tending of the graves may have to do with a reluctance to open the sites to the kind of memorabilia seen often in more traditional cemeteries, such as artificial flowers, toys and other mementos. Green burial grounds often eschew the mowing of grass and other aesthetically-minded gardening common to gravesites.

Preserving the Land

Green cemeteries in the United States may incorporate a conservation easement that ensures that the land may not be developed. Sites often encourage people to plant native species around the grave areas to promote a natural landscape. Green burial areas help extend open spaces in places where such space may be diminishing.

People who may be concerned about the environmental impact of their own burial frequently think first of cremation. While there have been strides in more earth-friendly cremation methods and containers, the process continues to emit mercury and other chemicals into the environment. A green burial in an unlined natural-wood or bamboo casket, or in a shroud produced from vegetable matter or non-toxic fibers may leave a much lighter footprint. One of the aims of the back-to-nature approach to internment is to facilitate the ultimate exercise in recycling, which is helping other things to grow with your body after you are done with it.

Category: Funeral

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