A natural, or green, burial is the act of returning the deceased’s remains as naturally as possible to the earth. To achieve this, the body must not be embalmed or cremated, but instead buried in a simple casket or shroud without a vault, in a protected green space.
Making the choice for natural burial means one is choosing a low impact burial. That is, a burial that reduces energy and resource consumption (like water), and is less toxic (i.e. no embalming). Therefore things like the carbon footprint left by the digging, mowing, trimming, and fertilizing that takes place in the cemetery, the consumption of fuel by the vehicles of family, friends and the funeral home, the energy consumption and emissions of, and from, the crematorium, as well as the waste from floral tributes and paper products, and the production of the headstone all need to be taken into consideration.
In Canada, there are currently four natural burial sites: Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria, British Columbia, Union Cemetery in Cobourg Ontario, Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton Ontario, and Duffin Meadows Cemetery in Pickering, Ontario – with more in the planning stages.
Most provinces, including Ontario, allow burials only in registered cemeteries, so starting a green burial site means creating a new cemetery or adding to an existing one. There are also municipal approval issues — a town can reject a new cemetery on a variety of grounds, be it zoning or simple lack of interest.
Embalming significantly retards the natural process of decomposition thus confronting the funeral director with a variety of toxic chemicals and introducing these very same noxious chemicals into the cemetery. Thus, embalming is not compatible with a natural cemetery. There are environmentally friendlier alternatives to embalming with formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), however these alternative chemicals still are toxic to the environment and may not be accepted in natural burial sites.
Natural burial grounds only contain natural markers that don’t intrude on the landscape. These natural markers can include shrubs and trees, or a flat indigenous stone, which may be engraved. There are no headstones.
Common Concerns About Green Burials
Based on work by Merilynne Rush
One of the concerns around green burials include whether or not animals can dig up the body. Green burials require an 18-24 inch soil and smell barrier between the burial container or shroud and the surface of the ground. This depth of soil is more than sufficient to remove any smell that animals, much less humans, can detect.
Another concern often expressed is whether or not the deceased’s remains will contaminate the groundwater? Contamination of groundwater is the single biggest concern that people give when opposing green burial. But it’s been well documented that the rare instances of contamination from cemeteries have been caused by the materials buried with the body, and not the body itself.
As We Wait for the Creation of a Natural Burial Site in Our Area We Can:
- Choose a locally sourced, all-wood casket without metal hardware, finished in natural oil and with a natural, biodegradable interior and bedding. A biodegradable shroud inside a cardboard coffin is an alternative.
- Ask for non-toxic, organic embalming fluid, or insist on none at all (thus limiting the period between death and burial).
- Donate our organs or body to science. However, it is good to remember that the remains are still cremated.
- Insist on not having a concrete vault or grave liner. (Note however, this may limit your choice of cemetery as most cemeteries require the use of a vault.)
- Use an indigenous rock or shrub instead of a headstone. (However, once again this may limit your choice of a cemetery and most cemeteries have stick guidelines as to the planting of shrubbery etc.)
- Discourage individual memorialization and use, instead, communal ones. For example, one stone to commemorate all those buried in the area, with only simple inscriptions. Thus, the green burial site as a whole becomes a living memorial to the persons interred there.
- Request a donation to a land conservation organization instead of flowers.
Permanent memorialization means creating a dedicated place for family and friends to connect and remember you or your loved one. It allows for a consistent place of healing.
In our modern society, people aren't given enough time to grieve their losses. The pressures of work, extra-curricular sports and activities, even the simple emotional need to ‘be busy’ often bring the bereaved back into the ‘real’ world far too soon.
Many families are choosing to scatter the cremated remains of their loved one in a favorite place; the cottage, fishing stream, local park, or even in the skies above. While that may seem fitting at the time, it often means that your family does not necessarily have a consistent or accessible place to connect with the memories of the person they loved so dearly.
Having a permanent place - in a cemetery, columbarium, or cremation garden - that can be visited regularly by family and friends can be an essential part of the time following a death. It becomes a focal point of memorialization, and gives everyone a special place to go to remember, or to commemorate important occasions. It can help to make a birthday or anniversary less painful.
A permanent place to reflect becomes a way of connecting to a family's past. Visiting the resting place of grandparents or great-grandparents can provide children with an anchor to their personal history. It is a connection to the past, to love shared. It truly honours the relationship one had, and still has.
The people who know and care about you will be there when needed. However, leaving them instructions and direction will definitely prove beneficial for them moving forward.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more items to be dealt with. We offer an estate planning guide completely free of charge to help you continue this planning process. Please contact us for one! We are pleased to answer any questions you may have, without obligation.
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Everything was done so professionally that I don’t think anything else could have been done.
You go above and beyond with your services and expertise and compassion.
You have succeeded in taking the sadness out of a funeral and made it into a celebration of life and remembrance, which we truly appreciated... Continue doing what you did for us. It was exceptional in every regard.
Our law office often has had many estates involving families who have obtained funeral services from Nathan. He is regarded by my staff and myself as outstanding for his professional, pleasant, and efficient manner. We would highly recommend Rhody Family Funeral Home to anyone.
Ross McLean, McLean Lawyers
Dear Nathan, I cannot say thank you enough for everything you and the rest of the Rhody Family Funeral Home team done for our family with Mom's passing. From the moment you got to Mom's house your professionalism was second to none. You listened and read between the lines yet missed nothing, every little touch was simply perfect, you left nothing undone, your care and compassion to ensure our family made Mom proud one more time, and for that I am forever grateful. You took a very difficult time for us and made it as simple and stress free for us as humanly possible. Nathan you should be very proud of yourself and the rest of your team. You have definitely set the bar very high for any other funeral home in the province to follow. Again thank you
Sincerely, Deb and Doug
Nathan: Thank you so very much for all that you have done for my Mom and my family. Your friendship during this difficult time was truly heartfelt. You made us feel welcome and like a part of your family. The whole time we spoke both at the nursing home and then at your place was a very peaceful experience. Not once were we made to feel like we did not belong there. Your attention to detail in everything that all of us said shows in the story of my Dad’s life and the video. Where there were concerns, you set them all at ease. I so appreciate all that you did for my Mom in helping her take care of cancellations and notifications for my Dad. It set her mind at ease knowing that you were taking care of all of this for her. It set me at ease knowing that she would not have to deal with the frustrations that sometimes come in taking care of these things. You and your family have gone above and beyond in all that you have done for us and I am truly thankful. The warmth and caring went home with us that day. We knew that the right choice had been made in allowing you to take care of my Dad. Again, thank you.
Your services are respectful, accomodating and very professional. An excellent job done. Thank you.
Our aunt & uncle were buried from a different funeral home and we noticed a huge difference in the funeral home services provided. Our mom and dad looked so natural (thank you!) while our aunt and uncle did not. Thank you Nathan, we can't begin to tell you how much we appreciate you and your staff this year!
Ann Legge, Patricia Tibbo & Jane Lembke
All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players." Rhody Family Funeral Home takes this and runs with it in an intricate and tasteful manner. The beautiful funeral home sets the stage to reflect the deceased's individual personality. Nathan's artistic ability is only surpassed by his compassion, sincerity and understanding. He goes above and beyond the required duties. His staff is second to none. Darlene Rhody soft spoken and sympathetic and Morris Emke gentlemanly and obliging. Pastor Terri-Ann is like no other with her comforting words of wisdom and encouragement and so compassionate. Her service was nothing short of beautiful. A very heartfelt thank you to Nathan and his staff for making an unpleasant experience bearable. And hats off to Rhody Family funeral home for sending dad -Ross Hammond off in the fashion he deserved. From my mom and my siblings our sincerest gratitude.
Personnel, facilities, advise & support all exceeded our expectations - it helped to communicate details by email. In particular, both Nathan and Terri-Ann did an excellent job! I was surpised at the after service documentation - all details well organized.
Nathan and staff were kind and helpful throughout the process. They really went above and beyond to make the experience as positive as possible.
Everything was great - many great comments made about the story alone on Pearl's life and we sent copies to people who could not attend - a very nice addition.
Family of Pearl Stephen
Our experience was amazing under the circumstances. Your services were perfect. You went above and beyond our expectations. You are very caring, compassionate and professional in your approach. You create a very therapeutic environment.
"Dear Nathan, your many caring and creative touches from the notice to the burial in the days following Catharine's (McKeeman) passing meant so much to all of us. You honoured her life in so many meaningful ways. Your compassion and celebration of her life will always be remembered by all those Catharine held dear."
Ian Campbell, Catharine's Brother
“Nathan, you did an absolutely amazing job. People give us compliments about everything from the life story to the beautiful, elaborate displays at the visitation. I tell everyone it was you. All the surprises - the cookies, the recipe cards, the signing picture - all amazing!”
Kim and Alan Grant
“Staff were professional and friendly.”
Lawrence and Heather Lamarche
“Nathan, you present yourself very well. Facilities were all that could be expected.”
“I would recommend your funeral home to everyone. Nathan’s ability to put you at ease, with a caring attitude is super and very respectful!”
“We were all very impressed.”
“Dear Nathan - You did a good job. Thank-you for all your help and all the information you obtained for me."
“Your sense of humour was a plus! You and your staff clearly have a calling for the work that you do. We all felt that we were in good hands throughout the entire process…. Nathan, thank you for everything. You made things easy for us, as we felt like we were working on Dad’s arrangements with family. We gave Dad a great send off and thank you and your staff for being a part of it.”
“Letters cancelling Gov’t services was a great help and was very much appreciated.”
William & Loraine Patterson
“You did everything really well. All needs were met and then some.… We received positive comments on the stationary. Great keep sakes. The book and slideshow were beautiful.”
“We had no concerns- worries, nothing, but confidence in the staff – we knew exactly how everything would happen and when - it was so nice not to have to concern ourselves with anything.”
"I don't think there is anything more you or your staff could do."
"No improvement needed. We were pleased with everything."
“I would not have changed anything. Thanks very much – Nathan and staff.”
“New renovations are very inviting and warm. All your new cards and books are very heart warming and keepsakes.”
"Staff were outstanding. Overall, it was great. Everything was perfect."
“Staff is exceptional!... All needs were met.”
“Service was beyond expectations… Already recommended to various people.”
“Could not have been more useful – very satisfied! I would highly recommend Rhody Family. Thank you ever so much for your professionalism and expertise.”
“Honestly, you and your staff made this time in my life the best it could be and were extremely helpful, respectful, professional and accommodating to my needs and my family’s needs, especially providing me with a space to feed [my child] if needed. Thank you for everything”
“Everything was perfect; it’s always nice to have lots of options.”
“Thank you for all your empathy, compassion and professionalism. Our family… is very grateful that we chose Rhody Family Funeral Home to look after our loved one.”
“Your services were excellent. Thank you again.”