Green burials

Natural, no-frills burials are becoming a popular way to give something back to the Earth.
By Annabelle Nyst November 7, 2013 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

THERE’S AN ADVERTISEMENT ON television at the moment that depicts a man walking into a convenience store to buy some milk and the little old lady behind the counter proceeds to list off at least fifteen different types. “I just want milk that tastes like real milk,” he replies, clearly overwhelmed uninterested in the choice.

I think this is a good metaphor; in life, we have a lot of choices.  Oh – and in death we do too.

Last month, Sydney welcomed its first ‘eco-cemetery’ – the latest development in post-mortem housing. The environmentally friendly burial service, called ‘natural burial’ was spawned in the UK in 1993 and is rapidly growing in popularity.

The practice of natural burial puts a conservationist spin on the traditional burial. The deceased are prepared without the use of embalming fluid or chemical preservatives, which are typically used to slow the process of decomposition. The body is then placed in a biodegradable coffin and laid to rest in a shallow grave, which allows the process to mimic that of composting, thus benefitting the Earth.

There are usually no headstones in a green cemetery. The goal is for the land to remain undisturbed and in its natural state. Instead, each body is buried with its own GPS transmitting device; this way, relatives of the deceased can navigate their way over the unmarked ground (using hand-held satellite systems) to visit their loved ones.

The eco-conscious method doesn’t seem wholly unappealing. Sure, you lose the personal aspect that the headstone brings – your own little shrine that friends and family can visit. But a natural burial means that even in death, we have the opportunity to give back to the Earth.

In many ways, the green cemetery offers the best of both worlds: the ‘dust to dust’ sentiment of cremation (with beneficial biodegradation rather than ash) together with a visitable place of burial for mourners.

It’s also cheaper than a traditional burial – possibly an indication of why eco-cemeteries are popping up all over the globe.

Or maybe it’s just that, like milk guy, we’re learning to make quality choices.