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When planning a funeral for a friend or family member, you might consider an environmentally friendly ‘green funeral’. Popular amongst nature lovers and those passionate about the environment, these eco-friendly funerals offer a peaceful and memorable day.

As we consider our environmental impact and carbon footprint more and more, funeral plans are adapting and eco-friendly funerals are growing in popularity. Our funeral services reflect this change to now include green funerals. We can help with every part of the day – from arranging a woodland burial to finding a biodegradable funeral casket or coffin.

For some, the concept of a green burial is still a new and unfamiliar one. So we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions to give you a better idea of why it may be suitable, and what’s possible.

What is a woodland burial?

An alternative to a traditional funeral or cremation, a woodland burial is an eco-friendly funeral. It’s sometimes referred to as a natural or green burial. The burial site is usually located in a rural location like a dedicated woodland area, forest or meadow, and offers a scenic final resting place for your loved one.

Unlike traditional burials, a woodland burial has a reduced environmental impact with a limited carbon footprint.

Where typical burials utilise a number of materials, such as wood, metal and embalming fluid, woodland burials use a simple biodegradable coffin or shroud.

Why choose a woodland burial?

Woodland burials appeal to many types of people, because they’re simple, peaceful and better for the environment than traditional funerals. It can feel especially appropriate for those who were environmentally conscious before they died, or for those who were close to nature. It may also be comforting for you to know that their burial has had a limited impact on the environment.

A woodland burial isn’t only chosen for environmental reasons – it’s also a beautiful setting. For friends and family, laying a loved one to rest in burial grounds amongst nature – surrounded by trees, flowers and wildlife – is appealing.

If you are considering a green burial, we can help find the perfect natural burial ground for you.

What is considered a green burial or eco funeral?

It’s becoming more and more common for people to ask about environmentally friendly funeral options. And what exactly makes a funeral eco-friendly. There are a number of factors, including:

  • Biodegradable or eco coffin. Often made from sustainable materials, which reduces environmental impact
  • No permanent headstone or memorial. This means the burial site is able to merge with the natural landscape. Although tree planting may be permitted.
  • Burial over cremation. Of course, there’s a great deal of fuel involved in cremation, and the process produces a lot of carbon dioxide.
  • The body is not usually embalmed. Preserving the body in traditional funerals requires the use of chemicals, which can be harmful to the environment if left in the ground. For this reason, embalming is generally not used in green funerals.
  • Minimal vehicles for funeral attendees. A simple way to reduce a funeral’s impact on the environment is to limit cars. Carpooling is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint.

What is an eco-coffin?

Eco-coffins are biodegradable. They’re designed to easily decompose in the earth, and can be crafted from materials such as cardboard, willow, bamboo, wool, wicker or even banana leaf.

Is it possible to have a headstone at a green burial?

It’s not possible to use permanent markers like headstones in most green burials. This is because they don’t blend with the natural environment. But there are ways to mark the final resting place of a loved one, in an environmentally friendly way. These include:

  • Memorial post. A simple wooden post, inscribed with a message of your choice
  • Living memorials. Planting a tree or a plant that represents their life and legacy
  • Obelisk. A beautiful monument made of wood
  • Memorial plaque. Wooden with a personalised inscription

Some choose not to mark the resting place of their loved one, instead choosing to think of the entire site as a memorial. There are also natural burial grounds which provide maps for the bereaved to locate the burial site of their loved one.

What happens at a woodland burial?

Woodland burials are more flexible than traditional funerals. There is no requirement for hymns or religious readings, unless you wish, and there is no set agenda to follow. You have complete freedom to direct the ceremony according to your friend or family member’s wishes.

A few ideas for the ceremony:

  • Memory walk. Meander peacefully through the woodland, before finishing the walk at your loved one’s burial site
  • A simple service. Askfriends and family to recite poems, read meaningful book extracts or recall happy memories of the deceased
  • A traditional indoor service. At some burial sites, there’s a building or centre where you can hold a more traditional service
  • Outdoor wake. It’s possible at some sites to use special outdoor areas like yurts, large tents or gazebos for a wake

Woodland burials are appealing because they are flexible, enabling you to create a memorable ceremony that’s meaningful and environmentally considerate.

How much does a green burial cost?

As you might expect, green burial costs vary depending on the site itself and the location. A green burial plot can start at a few hundred pounds and go up to several thousand pounds. But consider that this is usually a one-off purchase, and the site requires minimal upkeep.

Additional costs to consider:

  • The coffin. A ‘Simple Cardboard Coffin’ starts from as little as £400
  • Gravedigging / interment fee. On average, this costs between £300-£500, but is dependent on the burial ground
  • A memorial tree. A beautiful way to mark your loved one’s final resting place. Prices vary with the type of tree, but expect to pay upwards of £300
  • A funeral celebrant. Someone who officiates the service. This could be a member of the clergy, civil celebrant, family member, or friend
  • Venue hire. (If applicable)

For detailed costs and more information about green funerals and woodland burials in your area, get in touch  with your Funeral Arranger here at Stephen Johnstone & Son – Funeral Directors .