How to Plan a Natural Burial

Over twenty years ago in Great Britain, a new trend was underway that favored natural burials in the ground, no use of formaldehyde-based embalming fluid, and biodegradable remains ending up being compost for trees or other plants at the location.

Natural burials are becoming more popular as an alternative to the traditional types of burials that include materials that are not biodegradable. The choices and options now for natural burials are greater and 
there are funeral homes and cemeteries arrangements for natural burials. 

Whether you are pre-planning ahead of time for yourself or a loved one, or have an immediate need, here are some ideas on how to plan a natural burial. 
With pre-planning you will have time in a less formal way to make decisions. At the time of need, some families have felt there is a need to make decisions quickly, but there is always plenty of time for the family to make all of the decisions. The choices and options are the same however, and a funeral director can be helpful in answering questions about options in either case. 

Location - a cemetery that accommodates natural burials is important to have your needs met.
Many cemeteries nationwide as well as in Oregon and Washington offer natural burial alternatives. We have a list on our Eco-Friendly Options web page. 

Both offer natural burial options, and the details of some considerations may be asked of the cemetery or funeral director helping you.

What form of memorial is allowed at the gravesite? What is permitted inside the grave of a natural burial? How much soil is on top, and around the body? How is the land managed after the burial?

Will the gravesite be reused in the future?

Natural handling of the body - If a funeral home offers natural burials, they will not use embalming fluid that usually contains formaldehyde.  They will usually use mortuary refrigeration for the care till burial is able to take place. 

Notification and Date - Once your location and date is set you can submit an obituary to a newspaper, or other site. Virgil T. Golden Funeral Services has offered free online obituaries for years, and was the first to offer this in Salem. View the online obituaries for ideas and samples on the Virgil T. Golden Funeral Services website - Obituaries. A celebration of life service can also be planned after the burial and may include a natural theme, as well as favorite things of the deceased loved one, music, slide shows, shared poems or condolences.

Woven Asian Seagrass coffin
Materials - The materials for a natural burial fall into two main categories. A natural coffin or a wood board with a shroud wrapped around the body. Both are biodegradable and made with natural items. Some examples are shown to the left and below.

The English Willow coffin - to the right

This woven "English" line is handcrafted by the Somerset Willow Company, LTD's team of journeyman weavers. Four generations of the Hill family have been under the roof of this firm. Most of the willow used is grown within a 10 mile radius of their Bridgewater workshop in Somerset, England 

Natural Organic Cotton Shroud
Our 100% organic unbleached cotton shrouds are the simplest natural burial option. Handmade in Oregon, each regular-sized shroud has approximately 5+ yards of 60" wide fabric and provides ample material for a full body wrap. All shrouds are double-hemmed for a clean, finished look.  Three handsewn cotton straps tie the shroud into place.

Shrouding Board
The idea of shrouded bodies in burial is an ancient one, and the natural funeral movement has folks requesting it again. But shrouds create more than a few challenges when it comes to respectful body-management. The Natural Burial Company created the SHROUDING BOARD  to provide secure and dignified

transport for those who use shrouds, whether in the home or chapel, and during conveyance to the cemetery or crematory. Designed with the needs of both the family and funeral service providers in mind, our artisan-made SHROUDING BOARD™ is compatible with standard casket-lowering devices, slides on crematory or hearse rollers, as well as being easily hand-lowered.

Natural burials need to have some planning with questions answered that meet your preferences and needs. A funeral director that is familiar with these materials and information can be very helpful.

blog courtesy of Virgil T. Golden Funeral Services
view our natural burials web page >