It's your funeral: The eco burial movement gathers ground

Mar 09, 2009

Natural burial is often thought of as a green option that takes place in the countryside for non-religious people, but according to researchers at the University of Sheffield, that is only part of the story. 'Lots of different approaches to natural burial have evolved since 1993 when the first site was opened,' explains Mr Andy Clayden, who is leading the research team, which includes Professor Jenny Hockey and Dr Trish Green, 'they cater for people who want a more informal setting in keeping with the person they want to remember. There is no conflict with faith.' The topic is to be discussed at an event on Natural Burial: Do we need a Headstone? to be held in Sheffield on March 14 as part of the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.

There are now over 200 across the UK ranging from extensions to local authority cemeteries to sites owned by charitable trusts or private individuals. The project, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is looking at the range of services on offer and the wider impact of natural burial both on the people involved and the landscape. The researchers have already visited 20 sites and are continuing to interview managers, bereaved people, funeral professionals and members of the local community. They will also be conducting an in-depth study of four sites with different interpretations of what natural burial means.

Early findings suggest that natural burial is attractive to people who want to construct their own way of remembering a relative. Natural burial grounds vary tremendously in terms of the habitats they are trying to create or protect. For example some sites offer a specific guidance on what trees or wildflower seeds can be planted whilst other burial grounds may have a more relaxed and permissive approach. There are sites where the dead are almost completely anonymous; the field may be cut for hay or grazed by sheep.

'People have told us they like to visit sites where they can hear the birds or a stream in a wild life habitat,' says Andy Clayden. 'Some people are put off by the formality of cemeteries and are uncomfortable with the conventions and rules involved in conventional burials. As well as catering for very individual ways of memorialising some sites have created new ways of bringing the bereaved community together at the burial ground. Examples include a Christmas carol service and candle-lit procession and a summer garden fête with live music.'

The research suggests that the farmers and their families who offer land for burials are very enthusiastic about the new movement. 'Some of them live in remote upland areas and they find that by providing burial space they have a new role which requires them to 'open their door' to a new community whom they welcome onto and into their land. Many of them remain a point of contact with the bereaved,' says Andy Clayden.

Source: Economic & Social Research Council

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Radioactive waste: Where to put it?

Oct 27, 2013

As the U.S. makes new plans for disposing of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste deep underground, geologists are key to identifying safe burial sites and techniques. Scientists at The Geological Society ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.