A natural burial is a sustainable one, accounting for 7% of burials in the U.K. Speaking on Life Matters, Ken West who began the first natural burial site in the U.K. says that natural burial is a sustainable process that helps biodiversity. Natural burials don’t come with coffins or headstones; the body is buried in a shallow grave at a depth of two to three feet as the soil nearest the surface is more aerobic, therefore better at breaking down matter. West describes this type of burial as being vastly different to the standard variety provided by the ‘death care industry’ or the funeral industry where death is regarded as bad and putrid. In the process of natural burial, the decomposing body is seen as positive as it is nourishing to the environment.
There are more than 200 natural or ‘woodland’ burial sites in operation across the UK and the demand is growing. Its continuing growth is a challenge to the billion dollar funeral industry which depends on the sale of expensive coffins and memorials.
In Australia natural burial is limited to four sites and as West says we have been pretty slow to get going with this. He suggests that we need to talk about death and the care and disposal of the body. The private sector can be approached and in particular farmers who have the land and might want to get involved in the provision of natural burial sites.
First the conversation is about how we die, followed by the equally important issue of what happens to the body. Rather than the conventional burial or cremation our bodies can be buried in shallow graves feeding the trees under which they lay.
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