The goal of a natural burial is to return the body to the earth in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition and allows the body to recycle naturally. It is an environmentally sustainable alternative to existing funeral practices.
The body is prepared without chemical preservatives or disinfectants such as embalming fluid, whenever that fluid contains formaldehyde or another active agent that destroys the microbial decomposers necessary to break the body down.
The body may be buried in a biodegradable container or shroud. The grave does not use a burial vault and it should be dug to a depth shallow enough to allow the same aerobic activity found in composting.
Natural burials that permit full decomposition can take place in conventional cemeteries as well as dedicated natural burial grounds. Therefore, the act of burial should be considered distinct from landscaping and management techniques (restoration ecology; habitat conservation projects; permaculture etc.) that may vary widely from site to site and are used to maintain the burial area in perpetuity.
A natural burial ground often uses grave markers that do not intrude on the landscape. These natural markers can include shrubs and trees, or a flat indigenous stone which may be engraved. The burial ground may be designed with centralized memorial structures where visitors can sit within an emerging forest. As in all cemeteries, there are records kept of the exact location of each interment, often using survey techniques such as GIS.
Planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers on or near the grave establishes a living memorial and helps form a protected wildlife preserve. Irrigation is not used, nor are pesticides and herbicides applied.
Cemetery legislation protects natural burial preserves in perpetuity from future development while the establishment of a conservation easement prevents future owners from altering the original intent for these burial grounds. For people who are mindful of the cyclical nature of life, a natural burial is an alternative to conventional burial methods.
* Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home and Crematory does not have restrictions regarding “Green Funerals” with the exception that our funeral home prohibits public viewings without embalming. Please check with the cemetery of your choice to determine their regulations regarding “Green Burials.”