Green burials

In my opinion, green burials are a very good thing. Not only do they give people an alternative to traditional funerals, but they also help us preserve the earth, our most precious resource.

Of course, when I started out many years ago, there was no such thing. In those days it was the practice for the final remains of the deceased to find their rest in either a church graveyard or council cemetery. In fact, this is still very much the norm, but there is now a greener option.


I’ve seen great changes in my 65 years in the industry, but one of the most significant is that people have become more eco-conscious and conservation aware. At first, a small but distinct demand grew for what we thought of back then as ‘woodland burials’ but now most commonly refer to as ‘green’ or ‘natural’ burials.

They allow the bereaved to express their grief, thanksgiving and beliefs in a less traditional context, and appeal greatly to those who love the natural world with a passion. More importantly, they have a minimal ecological effect by using resources and processes which make little or no impact on the environment and allow the deceased to return to nature more quickly.

Oakfield Wood

In 1997, I was happy to find myself at the forefront of the green burial movement. A farmer in Wrabness approached a group of businessmen, of whom I was one, with the offer of a piece of his land for use as a woodland of remembrance. As a result, Green Woodland Burial Services, of which I was a director, was born, and Oakfield Wood was opened.

It was one of the first green burial sites of its kind in the East of England. In this natural haven, the lasting memorial to your loved one was an indigenous tree, rather than a grave marker. As far as possible, every material used in the funeral process was biodegradable and, furthermore, every time a burial was carried out, we made a donation to the work of the Essex Wildlife Trust.

Earth to earth

Since those days, green burial sites have sprung up all over the UK. Some are in woodland, others are meadows, but all of them offer natural burial as an alternative to traditional burials and interments. Many green burial sites now have chapels where families and friends of the deceased can, with or without faith, honour their loved one with a service or commemoration in the same location as the committal.

It is still quite a challenge to make a burial entirely natural, but we do the best that we can. Traditional coffins often have plastic handles or other content, which has to be avoided in favour of simple rope handles. In the early days, there was a fashion for cardboard coffins, but these were simply not robust enough, so we now recommend a simple wooden coffin, like the Orwell, from our range of caskets, which has no synthetic varnish or plastic, or one of our biodegradable woven coffins. In fact, there’s now a wide choice of coffins and containers available which are suitable for a natural burial, as well as the possibility of a shroud burial for an even more natural approach.

We do also need to consider the question of carbon footprint, since most green burial sites are out of town, which means that both the coffin and the mourners must drive there. However, if the deceased is an ardent nature lover, and the peace of a tranquil landscape appeals, this could be the ideal choice.

The future is more often green

I have always felt that there is something profound about our remains returning to the natural world from which we come, so it is rewarding to know that green, or natural, burials are now readily available.

Our wonderful team of arrangers are very happy to talk to you about a green burial, which can also be included as part of a pre-paid funeral plan.