At the top end of Penrith’s cemetery, up on the hill overlooking town, there is a quiet oasis: a little haven away from the busyness of town. It’s the Woodland Burial Site.
It’s fair to say that most people don’t think about how they will honour their loved ones or themselves after death in terms of funeral choices and disposal of the body.
Increasingly, however, as people become more aware of the huge impact the funeral industry has on the planet, some are taking active steps towards honouring Mother Earth by choosing a low-impact burial. What does this mean?
It is about burying a body that hasn’t been filled with formaldehyde (which is used to preserve the body so a funeral can be delayed for a week or longer). Some people recognise that an eco burial also means thinking about the coffin. In some instances, families will choose not to use a coffin, though there a many eco ones on the market, and use, instead, something like a shroud. The only legal requirement is that the body not be seen. It is not a legal requirement to use a coffin.
A woodland burial site doesn’t use headstones, but instead is a natural and holistic way of honouring death by allowing nature to grow unimpeded. Personally, I find it beautiful, simple and inspiring.
Oftentimes, people who have chosen the option of an eco burial will also practise home care: this is where the loved ones take care of the body, by keeping it cool with dry ice, and brushing the hair, cleaning the body, and keeping a vigil until the ceremony. Most people are unaware that using a funeral home is an option, not a necessity.
We’re blessed in the Eden Valley to have such a wonderful resource as this woodland burial site, and I hope in time that it becomes the norm to bury our loved ones in this way (or on private land) as people move away from environmentally unfriendly cremations, headstones, and cemeteries that require constant upkeep through mowing and toxic weed killers.
Veronika Robinson is a funeral celebrant who is available to officiate ceremonies throughout Cumbria. Her work involves creating, writing and officiating ceremonies based on the wishes of her clients, and founded on their beliefs, whether they’re religious, humanist, spiritual or other. She is happy to work directly with families or via a funeral director. She is passionate about eco-burials, and opening up the conversation around death and dying in a conscious way. She is a supporter of the Natural Death Centre. http://www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant/funerals-memorials.shtml