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What is a Green Burial?

‘Green’ or ‘Natural’ burials are very fashionable concepts these days, but they seem to mean different things to different people. One reason for this is that they are phrases that cover a very broad spectrum of ideals and principles.

The average man in the street, asked to describe his understanding of a Green funeral, might answer ‘wicker coffin’ or ‘woodland burial site’ but, in all likelihood, he won’t have thought about it in any detail. Even people who have considered it will have a range of priorities about how to make a funeral Green, based on their own lifestyle and their experience of funerals to date. There is also often a mistaken conflation of ‘Natural’ and ‘Humanist’, despite there being no reason for Green or Natural burials always to follow Humanist ceremonies.

Part of the problem is that Green and Natural burials have developed over the years from what was once a very alternative movement into something that has become thoroughly mainstream. But in order to enter the mainstream, there has been an inevitable dilution of the original, strict precept. This is not a bad thing. We are all practicing Green lifestyles in small ways when we recycle, when we choose eco-option cleaning products and when we turn our thermostats down by a degree. But how far do we really expect to go with our funeral arrangements? Natural burial sites don’t usually allow grave markers for example. That is fine, it is part of the Natural Burial movement’s basic philosophy, but it is not necessarily what families want, especially in a society that is very interested in family history.

A quick look at the websites of organizations like The Good Funeral Guide or The Green Burial Council gives comprehensive information about these issues in more detail and we would love to hear about your own experiences. Are people trying to mix and match, or is there a sharp divide between Green and ‘Not Green’? How much change have you seen in recent years and do you expect a further change in the future?

Society is getting greener every year, both via national legislation and because of cultural change. There is no reason not to include a Green or Natural element in any kind of funeral. How far that is taken is a matter of interpretation and individual choice.

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