Green Burials

a more eco-friendly burial

In years gone by the only option people had was for a traditional burial or cremation but with increased awareness about the environment comes the demand for a more eco-friendly burial. 

Green burials appeal because of their simplicity and sustainability, the funeral service is often held in a natural setting and the burial ground will be more like a meadow or woodland than a traditional graveyard.

‘The essence of a green funeral is age-old elemental simplicity. It rejects the so-called traditional funeral with its stuffy, Victorian, urban look, in favour of an outdoorsy, homespun, back-to-nature look. 

It prefers an unspoilt landscape to that of a regimented conventional cemetery. If it’s a look you like, natural burial is as lovely as it gets.’

 The Good Funeral Guide

Sunflower - Green Burials

Why choose a green burial?


The main reason is out of respect for the planet. At each step of the process there’s the option to limit waste, reduce the carbon footprint and even nourish the local ecosystem. The burial can include forgoing embalming, skipping concrete vaults, rethinking burial containers and maintaining and protecting natural habitat.

A green burial:

  • May not be held at a traditional burial ground.
  • Rejects cremation.
  • Prohibits embalming.
  • Will be at a site which has some kind of purpose connected with conservation.
  • The coffin or shroud is especially made from natural, sustainable materials.
  • Grave markers or headstones are rarely allowed.
  • Embodies the idea is that it’s not the grave that commemorates the deceased but the entire site.

There are basically two types of natural burial grounds; truly natural, nature reserve grounds, where non-embalming is a requirement and coffins have to be biodegradable. 

There are also those where a tree is planted but no other environmentally friendly rules apply.

What is a natural burial?

Natural burial is a term used to describe the burial of human remains where the burial area creates a thriving habitat for wildlife or conserves a place of beauty such as a woodland, meadow, orchards, or a sustainably managed farmland. 

Places which are rich in flora and fauna. 

Where there is a funeral before the burial takes place, it needs to be done in a way that reduces the environmental impact, such as prohibiting embalming and ensuring the coffin or shroud is made from biodegradable materials.

What is a woodland burial?

A woodland burial is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional burials and cremation. 

Usually set within acres of woodland and surrounded by countryside, most woodland burial sites offer either a burial plot or burial or scattering of ashes.

Empty bench by forest

Do churches and crematoria hold green burials?

Many local authorities, churches and parish councils are also beginning to incorporate some of the principles of green burials into their own sites.

This might include allowing a section of a cemetery to become meadow, using only traditional non-chemical means to manage it.

Preparing the body

Because green burials reject embalming alternatives such as dry ice and refrigeration are used as they are non-toxic. The body will be wrapped in a shroud created from natural organic materials such as linen and plain soft wool or bamboo fabric.


While most traditional cemeteries and crematoria will insist that there is a coffin, in spite of the fact there is no legal requirement to utilize one in the UK, alternative ceremonies make it possible for the body to be buried only in a shroud if that is the deceased’s wish. However, most people do choose a coffin but in a material that will be eco-friendly.

Research from The Natural Death Centre suggests that 89 per cent of the 600,000 coffins used in the UK every year are made from chipboard covered with laminate and although these are biodegradable, they release harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during a cremation. Environmentally friendly alternatives can be made from wicker or bamboo, or the most sustainable material of all, cardboard, which is strong and completely biodegradable.

the ceremony

The green burial offers a lot more flexibility than a traditional ceremony and can therefore be tailored to the wishes and beliefs of the deceased person. 

There may not even be a ceremony but instead relatives and friends might do a memory walk through the woodland or meadow and share recollections of their loved one with each other. 

But there are no rules and some woodland burial sites offer use of a building or service centre where a service can be held, if desired. Many natural burial sites also have special areas for outdoor wakes, often featuring yurts or large tents and gazebos.

A woodland funeral doesn’t need to follow any protocol. As long as site guidelines are adhered to, it can be as flexible as required.


Graves aren’t marked with vertical marble headstones as they are in traditional cemeteries. They are either left unmarked (though they’ll be recorded on plans) or they have a small wooden marker or a horizontal flat engraved natural stone marker.

One of the advantages of these kinds of graves is that they don’t have to be maintained in the way that traditional graves do.

Many woodland and natural burial grounds discourage items being left on graves and they want only native trees and plants to be planted.

Is a funeral director required?

There is no legal requirement to use the services of a funeral director but the DIY funeral can be daunting at a very emotional time which is why most people opt to use a funeral director who understands the requirements of an eco-friendly burial.


There are now more than 270 green burial sites in the UK and these are set to increase as environmental issues become more urgent.

While many people find comfort in a more established way of commemorating those who have passed away, there are many who now want to leave a different kind of impression, one that shows their care for the planet and the generations who will follow them. 

A green burial can be a wonderful way to doing just that.

Your funeral your way

Middleton’s Funeral Services are a rich and diverse community and believe in honouring the individual regardless of religion or belief. If you wish to organise a green ceremony for your loved one you can contact us below or through our contact page.

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68 Rochdale Road, Middleton,
Manchester, M24 2PU


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0161 204 7884

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