Alternative end of life options : Eco Burials
These days there are plenty of alternative end of life options and eco burial methods. Gone are the days when the only options for burials were consecrated cemeteries and hard wood coffins with brass fittings.
As The Alternative Celebrant, I am always looking for solutions for my clients that enable them to celebrate, commemorate and remember in unique ways that reflect theirs and their loved ones individuality.
Some time ago I read about mushroom suits that speed up the decomposition of a body once it is buried in the earth. I thought to myself; that is exactly the type of thing I would like to happen to my corpse when the life and soul goes from it. It is the natural order of things ; our body can decay, feed the earth which grows plants that in turn either feed animals or humans who can then grow, thrive, reproduce, and live our lives. To live we have to be part of the great cycle of nature and, to me, the idea of giving my carry case back to nature seems like the perfect solution.
Others may find the thought of this gruesome.
There are some world practices that may seem shocking or unacceptable to us; but there reasonings are usually based on less stigma of the dead or more connection with nature as a whole:
Alternative End of Life options & rituals from around the world
In Buddhism, bodies are meant to be cremated or given over to animals in an act of charity. It is a Tibetan the ritual is Sky Burial. The body is placed on a high peak allowing vultures to pick the bodies clean. Once picked clean, the bones are ground up and fed to crows. There’s a similar practice in Mongolia called “Air Sacrifice” where the body of the deceased is laid out in the open and outlined with stones. They then allow hungry dogs and birds to devour the corpse, leaving only the outline… a representation of its spirit.
In The Republic of Kiribati in the Central Pacific, a few months after burial, the body is exhumed and the skull is taken. The family of the deceased will polish, oil, preserve, and display this skull in their homes, they will regularly make offerings to it.
In Madagascar, there is a funeral tradition called Famadihana. Every 5-7 years the deceased are exhumed to take care of them. They re-wrap them, perfume them, dance with them, and share stories.
There is even one tribe remaining in, The Yamomani in The Rainforest, that still engages in Funerary Cannibalism, The deceased are cremated and the remains mixed into a banana paste for consumption. The belief is that this is an act of compassion or a way to absorb the life force of the deceased.
On the more gruesome side, there is still one tribe remaining, The Yamomani in The Rainforest, that still engages in Funerary Cannibalism, The deceased are cremated and the remains mixed into a banana paste for consumption. But even in this situation the belief is that this is an act of compassion or a way to absorb the life force of the deceased.
Alternative end of life options : Eco Burials here in the UK…
Here in the UK we have all sorts of alternative burial options. Here are some of the more environmentally friendly alternatives to a traditional burial.
Lets start with the Mushroom Suit as it was the one I mentioned at the beginning.
The Mushroom Death Suit
The ‘Mushroom Death Suit’ is centered around the idea of reconnecting the body with the earth. It was designed by artist Jae Rhim Lee , part of her Infinite Burial Project. Simply put, it is a onesie embedded with mushroom spores that speeds up decomposition and neutralizes toxins the human body releases when we die. Click here for more detail
Tree Pod Burials
In a similar vein of “life never stops”. Capsula Mundi base their model on recognising that human beings are part of “nature’s cycle of transformation”. The idea of tree pods allows the deceased to be buried in the ancient form of a biodegradable egg pod. The body is placed in the foetal position to represent rebirth. A tree is planted above the pod, (possibly chosen by the deceased in life) which would then grow to represent a memorial. Forests would begin to grow, providing, places for the ancestors to stroll, contemplate, remember and find comfort and peace.
Did you know that it is possible to bury your loved ones in your garden. Now this doesn’t mean you can bump them off and dig a hole in the middle of the night whilst the neighbours are asleep, as they do in the movies! That remains illegal!
However, you may then obtain consent from the local authority to enable the burial to take place. All you need is with a lawful certificate of the cause of death, and having registered the death. A body comes within the definition of “clinical waste”. As such, cannot be disposed of except under the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and the Environment Protection Act 1990. A licensed operator is usually needed but a local authority may waive the requirement in special circumstances.
Garden burials must be more than 10m from any standing water, and a minimum of 50m from any source of drinking water. They must also be deep enough to stop wild animals from digging them up(!)
You must also record exactly where the garden burial plot is and give this information on the deeds, which may have an impact should you ever wish to sell your home. Also think about the fact that any new owner is under no obligation to give you or anyone connected to you access once you no longer own it.
As an alternative to a coffin, a burial shroud is a large piece of material in which the deceased’s body is wrapped. These can be made of fabrics such as cotton, linen, muslin, or even hemp. How you decorate your loved one’s burial shroud is up to you. Some have large pockets sewn on top so you can add keepsakes and fragrant herbs. Also, in reference to the mushroom suit, these can be impregnated with mushroom spores.
The one pictured is made from raw fleece on a simple peg loom, by Ele of Pentiddy Burial Shrouds, based in Cornwall
Eco Friendly Coffins
It is now possible to think more sustainably even if you want a solid wood coffin. Choose a sustainable source, think about the fixings, fittings and linings.
Paul Barnett of Feet First Coffins, use only bio degradable and sustainably sourced wood. All his coffins are handmade to order from pine, fittings are hemp rope, linings are unbleached fair trade cotton and meadow hay.
A great alternative to traditional wood is something that is faster growing, more quickly composting and overall, more sustainable. Materials include, willow, banana leaf, bamboo or cardboard
In my area there is Beryl Smith is a willow weaver based in Llandidloes, she is an artisan , who amongst other things, hand weaves coffins from willow, adds rope handles… no glue involved.
Its worth remembering in this day and age, that we can purchase a coffin from anywhere in the world, so try and find a supplier as near to your doorstep as possible. There’s no point in choosing a cardboard coffin and then getting it shipped from China! If you are looking for cardboard, try Creative Coffins, with manufacturing based in Essex
Alternative Locations to Church Cemeteries
These days there are also plenty of alternative places for a burial. You are no longer restricted to church cemeteries.
These are (some of) the ones in my area. Mid Wales, The Marches (Powys/Ceridigeon/Powys/Hereford)
Green Lane Burial Field
Green Lane Burial Field is located at Upper Bryntalch Farm, Montgomery and run by Ifor and Eira Humphreys. It is a typical Mid-Wales farm, of grassland with a beef herd of 30 cows with their calves and a flock of 400 sheep and lambs. The Natural burial area is nearly 1 acre (0.4 hectares) in an 11 acre field and is situated on the plateau adjacent to Cefnbryntalch Hall
Hay Meadow Burial Ground
Hay Meadow Burial Ground is situated amongst the Radnorshire hills in rural Mid Wales (Glascwm, Powys) and offers both meadow and woodland burials. This family run burial ground continues to be farmed and grazed by sheep, with the meadows providing a crop of hay each year for the sheep to feed in the winter. Adjoining to the Hay Meadow, Busnant Wood is being created following a native tree planting plan.
Set within the beautiful surroundings of the Brecon Beacons, Beaconspark is the only approved natural burial ground in South Wales.
Humber Woodland of Remembrance
Humber Woodland of Remembrance offers green burials in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside, surrounded by wildflowers, trees and wonderful views. This beautiful site is run by Diane and Robert Thomas, together with their children Richard and Lizzie.
Llanelli District Cemetery
Llanelli District Cemetery offers natural burial options in a Woodland area where single depth graves are located in clearings amongst mature Pine trees.
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