A generation of ‘Baby Boomers’ are now reaching that stage of their lives where they are beginning to think about their own funerals, and many of them are at the forefront of a push towards more natural ‘end of life’ options.
The number of green burial sites across Australia and the world are growing in both number and size, as environmental advocates push to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.
The green burial movement is growing in the United Kingdom and United States. While Australia has been a little slower than other nations to embrace change, the funeral industry is awakening to the concept.
People are choosing green burials because of the reduced impact on the environment as well as the emotional and spiritual connection it offers.
During a green burial, the deceased is laid to rest using only biodegradable materials and usually without toxic embalming . The body is buried in a cemetery or bushland, often with a stone or indigenous plant marking the grave.
Green burial sites are a living ecosystem that reduce the amount of toxins going into the ground, unlike most traditional burials or cremation. They are not just about having the most bare minimal thing, as you can still have a very beautiful ceremony, and many of the coffins made from natural materials are quite lovely but more simple.
Carly Dalton from Greenhaven Funerals in Victoria, advised, “Traditional burial and cremation practices can have significant negative environmental impact, but considering a green, eco-friendly approach to funeral care is one way to lessen the impact. Funeral options that are sustainable and eco-friendly, and leave a lighter, softer and smaller footprint on the earth are becoming more popular”.
The South Australian Parliament passed legislation in 2013 to recognize natural burials. These laws reflect modern technologies, industry practices and community expectations, including the recognition of natural burial grounds. It also removes a 99-year limit on interment rights in public cemeteries, allowing perpetual interment rights.
There are already sites for natural burial grounds in:
- Lismore Lawn Cemetery (NSW)
- Kingston Cemetery (TAS)
- Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park (WA)
- Fremantle Cemetery (WA)
- Enfield Memorial Park (SA)
- Healesville Cemetery (VIC)
- Lilydale Memorial Park (VIC)
- Carlsruhe Cemetery (VIC)
- Queanbeyan Cemetery (ACT) also has a ‘bush’ section
- Alberton Cemetery (QLD)
A natural, earth burial involves the interment of the deceased, (who has not been embalmed), into an eco friendly shroud or coffin made from bio-degradable or sustainable materials, allowing the remains to return to the earth in as natural a way as possible.
Natural burial grounds often plant trees or shrubs in place of headstones or plaques to leave a ‘living marker’, and in some cases each site is micro-chipped to allow current and future generations to locate the interment site through a GPS tracking system.
If a conventional cemetery is your only option, you can still choose a greener burial by choosing an eco-friendly shroud or coffin. If possible, confirm that you would prefer your loved one is not embalmed and decide on a lawn grave instead of a concrete vault or liner. (These are designed to prevent the ground from sinking in when the coffin and body decompose. They make it easier to maintain the manicured lawns but they waste a lot of resources.) Choose the minimum size headstone or plaque allowed, and ask if locally sourced material can be used.
Choices and options for a Green Burial-
- environmentally friendly coffins or shrouds
- bio-degradable garments for the deceased
- natural burial grounds
- on-line death and funeral notices
- flowers from local organic growers
- memorial stationary made from recycled paper
- catering / refreshments from locally sourced providers using organic produce
- make arrangements for carpooling from location to location for the funeral
Cremation doesn’t seem like an especially green idea, as burning anything creates pollution, especially if there are toxic substances present (via embalming for example), as opposed to burials that return nutrients to the ecosystem via decomposing matter.
There is an argument though for cremation with most modern crematoriums having made significant reductions in emissions. In addition, many cemeteries have rules and regulations requiring the use of concrete vaults, hardwood coffins, and other such requirements that use significant resources and precious space.
Cremated remains don’t require this space, and can be dispersed on land or on a body of water. Many cemeteries have dedicated scattering grounds, which provides a convenient place for families to return to when they want to remember their departed.
A group comprising volunteers from various sectors – funeral directors, green burial advocates, carers, spiritual and tribal leaders, and others – recently formed the Natural Death Advocacy Network to lobby for change and provide a point of contact for people interested in alternative end-of-life practices – See more at: The Citizen
Healesville Natural Burial Ground, Victoria
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