Natural or Green Burial?

I assist individuals in thinking about and putting their thoughts in writing for their end of life wishes. Did you just read that?


Many do not want to discuss, plan for, or think about critical illness, chronic health issues, death, or dying. Funerals and wakes or shivas along with burials are far from the thoughts of many!

But, what do you want? Have you thought about it? Do you want a traditional wake and funeral along with a cemetery burial?

If you are of another culture or religion do you want to follow what is typical or do you want something different? Something more simple?

I will use myself as an example-

I am Jewish and so the typical funeral and burial would be a funeral in a Jewish funeral home, burial at a Jewish cemetery in a wood casket, a week long shiva and then traditions of an unveiling of a headstone within a year and visiting my grave site on the anniversary of my burial.

I do not want any of this! Jewish funerals like the above cost over 10k ($10,000) and to me the money can be better spent by myself or my family…

I want a natural burial. To be either cremated or buried in a shroud as they do in Israel, but I want a green and natural burial. What do these terms mean?

As stated on the Natural Burials Association website: “A natural burial is the act of returning a body as naturally as possible to the earth. To achieve this, we recommend that the body not be embalmed or cremated, but instead buried in a simple casket or shroud, in a protected green space. Making the choice for natural burial means you are choosing a low impact burial. It is a choice that reduces energy and resource consumption, and one that is less toxic. In addition it ensures the land cannot be used for any other purpose therefore protecting these wild spaces from becoming a subdivision or quarry.”

Further to the above, “A natural burial is usually a less expensive option than a conventional burial. What makes a natural burial different from a financial perspective, is that the costs are better allocated, with money carrying on the legacy of the deceased by protecting green space instead of the mark-up on expensive, unnecessary materials and procedures. Cremation is typically a cheaper option, but all of the environmental costs are not factored in.”

A beautiful green space with walking paths, flowers, trees, encouraging birds, butterflies and dragonflies to visit that does not look like a traditional cemetery; much more my style. I love nature and to me it is the best place to go to unwind, to contemplate a difficult decision, to get exercise, and enjoy the sounds of nature!

Within the burial space; walking paths, benches to sit, additional flower or shrubery gardens, and lots of trees. Add some bike paths, a dog run and a picnic area on the outskirts of this green space. No homes can be built, no office buildings or condos-just a huge expanse of green!

Canada has four sites: Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria, British Columbia, Union Cemetery in Cobourg Ontario, Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton Ontario, and Duffin Meadows Cemetery in Pickering, Ontario – with more in the planning stages.

The 3 Ontario ones are closer to me in Montreal. This means none of the other provinces in Canada have natural burial grounds….and in all honesty-Canada is a huge country, lots of unused green space!

What is a green burial? According to the Green Burial Canada website: “Green Burial is a statement of personal values for those who seek to minimize their impact on the local and global environment. For people who are mindful of the cyclical nature of life, green burial is a spiritually fulfilling alternative to conventional burial or cremation. It is an environmentally sensitive practice: the body is returned to the earth to decompose naturally and contribute to new life.”

There are five principles to Green Burial:

1- No embalming

2- Direct earth burial (very much inline with burials in Israel-shroud, right to the earth and within 24 hours if not same day. Hence, embalming not needed).

3- Ecological Restoration and Conservation

4- Communal Memorialization-the use of individual memorials is discouraged. Instead using naturally sourced materials, placed in the green burial cemetery (or cemetery section) and only simple, basic inscriptions are made.

5- Optimized Land Use-

The re-use of grave space makes sense as the most logical and sustainable use of limited interment space, especially in urban settings.

Optimally, green burial (and conventional) cemeteries would be designed in such a way that some areas permit for the re-use of graves.  The concept of a re-useable or term-limited grave is common throughout the world. USA and Canada are two countries that use the ‘perpetual right of interment’ cemetery model.It is a waste of space. Spouses could be together in the same space instead of side by side. Urban areas only have so much space to access, and traditional cemeteries, burial, and funerals while the older generations did this, younger generations are more focused on economical along with greener burials.

Instead of a traditional funeral, burial, wakes and shivas-one if they know they are ill, chronically sick or dying may choose do hold a “Celebration of Life Ceremony” where memories, laughs, jokes, stories are shared while the person is still alive. Some may have a video that showcases their life, their history, their memorable events. This can be a very good experience and can help ease the ill individual towards the notion their death is imminent. Families and friends who were fighting or have grown apart could perhaps reunite, forgive, say goodbye.




2 thoughts on “Natural or Green Burial?

  1. rginsberg2 says:

    Good thoughts, Vikki. Future planning is so important, not only for Self but also for family (!!) and friends. You are thinking deeply about this, much detail, so questions can find answers.

    1. mswwrites says:

      I want others to do that as well! Think, start asking questions, and begin planning or at least having discussions…

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