What is Green Burial?

Green Burial means allowing a human body to decompose and return to the earth naturally.

  • The body is not embalmed; cold and cleanliness can keep the body in good condition for several days.
  • The body is buried directly in the earth, in a shroud or bio-degradable casket made of local materials (pine, for example). It is not enclosed in a metal coffin or concrete vault.
  • Burial is not as deep as conventional modern burial, (3 or 4 feet, as opposed to 5 or 6 feet) so that the body rests in the living area of the soil; there is enough soil over the body that there is no smell, and animals are not attracted to the grave.
  • The burial ground is maintained in as natural a state as possible planted with native plants that encourage native animal, bird and insect species and don’t require irrigation or mowing.
  • Markers are of natural materials such as native stone, and flat or low to the ground. Or a communal memorial may be chosen.

The practice is nothing new, people treated their dead this way for thousands of years before embalming and other modern burial practices became popular.

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  • Green Burial Ottawa Valley
    Green Burial Ottawa Valley
    “Crumbs of rotten stone,
    ​Shards of bone, the leavings
    And the ruins of lives
    The grounds a grave and
    So it thrives…
    A thousand thousand years
    Will bloom here in the spring
    Upon the living sing the blessing of the dead.”
    -Wendell Berry
    Green Burial Ottawa Valley
    Green Burial Ottawa Valley
    In the Middle Ages, monasteries often had cemetery orchards, with mulberry, apple, and chestnut trees sprouting up from between gravesites so that no space went wasted. Throughout the 1800s, many Americans spent their afternoons picnicking in cemeteries, and cemeteries such as Philadelphia’s The Woodlands, and Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, still encourage it. In countries including Greece, Japan, and Mexico, families have for centuries reminisced about or honored their loved ones while relaxing beside their graves and dining on helpings of souvlaki, sushi rolls, or tamales. Heritage Gardens eschews the use of pesticides, and its veggies are not sprouting from gravesites, but instead in their own isolated spot.