Leaving a Green Legacy: Having a Natural Burial
March 01, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
I’m not a funeral director, but I’ve wrapped dozens of people in a funeral shroud. It was the same shroud every time; my shroud, and the people I’ve wrapped in it were very much alive. After a demonstration of shroud wrapping, I ask people how it feels. ‘Peaceful,’ they usually tell me. ‘Like being tucked into bed.’
In the UK over 75% of us choose cremation after death. This high rate may stem from the fact that it’s the norm, or from a fear of burial, or the incorrect assumption that it might be the cheapest option. According to the Natural Death Centre, a single cremation uses as much energy as a 500 mile car trip and releases 400 kilos of carbon dioxide, as well as mercury vapour. Those of you who are going to die (100% reading this, in fact), should know that another option exists, just below the surface in a meadow or woodland near you.
Natural burial can simply be described as a return to the land. In a natural burial, a dead person is placed in a biodegradable container – usually a cotton or bamboo fabric shroud, or a coffin made of willow or cardboard – and then buried in a designated natural burial ground or on private land. The person will normally be buried by hand at a single depth of 2 or 3 feet below the surface, as deeper burial inhibits the breakdown of the body by micro-organisms, creating methane which will eventually enter the atmosphere. The land will then be allowed to return to a natural state, with minimal landscaping.
Natural burials are as much a social issue as an environmental one. Our loved ones can still be involved in our deaths: wrapping a shroud, decorating a cardboard coffin, helping to dig a grave, planting local wildflowers at the grave site, or visiting you in beautiful surroundings, knowing that you are just below the surface, tucked into the earth, at peace.
Take a look at the Natural Death Centre online, or visit an independent funeral director for a chat. Plan and let your wishes be known. If you’re ever in Taunton, you’re always welcome to try out my shroud. I hear it’s quite an experience.
by NICOLE STANFIELD
Death Cafe Taunton organiser