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Green death: Why eco burials are on the rise

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Thumbnail image for Natural Eco Burial.jpgIt's perhaps not a subject we want to think too much about, but it seems more of us are deciding to reduce our carbon footprint when we die as well as well as during our lifetime.

Natural, or eco, burials are on the increase with over 270 sites having been created in the UK since 1993 (the majority of these in the last 10 years alone). And apparently the UK leads the world when it comes to natural burial, thanks to this country's unregulated funeral industry.

A recent MORI poll found that 70 per cent of us would choose natural burial if they better understood it - the same percentage as those who currently opt for cremation.

Cost effective

Unlike a conventional burial, natural burials are both 'green' and cost effective. Cremation uses fossil fuels and creates toxic fumes while traditional burial, because of the depth of a grave, can cause issues with methane. Likewise, the materials used to build a coffin are often non-biodegradable. Coffins used in natural burial are usually made from wicker or cardboard and can cost as little as £120.

But the popularity of natural burial isn't just about environmental issues, as Rosie Inman-Cook of the Natural Death Centre explains:

"Most people decide on a natural burial having attended such a service. They love the freedom and slow pace - you don't have to have a hearse, for example. Some people have chosen to use a VW Camper van and one family even turned up with their grandmother's coffin in her beloved Renault Clio.

The experience is time rich - there's no sense of urgency and people can stay as long as they like at the graveside. I've visited sites with people who are terminally ill and it's given them a great sense of relief to see their final resting place whether or not they have religious beliefs."

Final resting place

Natural burial.JPG

Landscape architect, Ann Sharrock (pictured below) is hoping her show garden at this year's RHS Malvern Spring Gardening Show will help to raise awareness. Based on a natural burial site she created for multi-millionaire publisher Felix Dennis at his estate in Warwickshire, the garden is the antithesis of manicured cemeteries and contains few hard landscaping features to respect its rural location (see image above). Many such sites are designed to return to their natural state over the course of 50 years.

Whatever type of burial we select, it is clear that there is a shortage of burial space. Within the UK Green Infrastructure typography, cemeteries and graveyards are seen as assets and Ann Sharrock believes urban areas, as well as rural areas, may well reap the advantages.

A natural burial site provides a unique, bio-diverse environment helping to counteract air pollution and contribute to the health and wellbeing of the local community.

Both Ann Sharrock and Rosie Inman-Cook will be at the RHS Spring Show, taking place May 9 to 12 at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern. The Natural Burial Site Garden is Show Garden OS909.

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