Embracing Eco Burials: A Gentle Return to Nature

As we all become more eco-conscious, it’s no surprise that our approach to death is also changing. Eco burials, also known as green burials or natural burials, are becoming more popular in Australia and around the world. These burials aim to minimise environmental impact and promote sustainability, offering a way to honour our loved ones while respecting the planet.

A couple of months ago, I had the bittersweet honour of supporting the eco burial of my dear friend Treena. Treena was a fierce activist, passionately fighting for many causes close to her heart, including the environment. True to her values, Treena was buried on her own land, shrouded and wrapped in paperbark. Her final journey was eco-conscious, just as she lived.

What is an Eco Burial?

An eco burial is designed to be kind to the environment. This can include various practices, such as:

  • Biodegradable Coffins and Urns: Made from materials like wicker, bamboo, cardboard, or untreated wood, these break down naturally over time.
  • Natural Burial Grounds: Cemeteries that skip the concrete vaults and toxic embalming fluids. Bodies are buried in their natural state, allowing them to decompose and return to the earth, and have minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystems.
  • Aquamation (Water Cremation): Using water and alkali to break down the body, this method uses less energy than traditional cremation and produces no harmful emissions.
  • Home Funerals: Families care for the body at home, which can reduce transportation emissions and avoid the need for embalming chemicals.

The Eco Burial Movement in Australia

In Australia, the eco burial movement is picking up steam. Here are some of the things we are seeing rise in popularity:

  • Natural Burial Sites: We’ve got some beautiful natural burial grounds, like the Bushland Cemetery in Lismore, NSW, Alberton Cemetery, QLD, and the Natural Burial Ground at Wirra Wonga, SA. These places offer peaceful resting spots, often marked with natural stones or native plants. They are sometimes part of an existing cemetery, and sometimes a fully natural burial ground. 
  • Biodegradable Coffins: Companies like Daisybox and Serendipity Coffins offer a range of biodegradable coffins to suit different tastes and budgets.
  • Community Initiatives: Many communities are getting on board with green burials, holding workshops and events to educate people about their options and the benefits of eco-friendly practices. The peak body in Australia is the Natural Death Advocacy Network (NDAN),and has lots of great information on their website.

Global Trends in Eco Burials

This isn’t just an Aussie thing – it’s a global movement, with lots of innovative approaches popping up around the world:

  • The US and UK: Leading the green burial movement with numerous natural burial grounds and growing acceptance of eco-friendly practices. Organisations like the Green Burial Council in the US and the Natural Death Centre in the UK are at the forefront.
  • Europe: Scandinavians are known for their environmental consciousness, and this extends to their burial practices. In Sweden, there’s growing interest in organic promession, a process that freeze-dries the body and turns it into compost.
  • Asia: While traditional practices are still prevalent, there’s a slow but steady interest in eco burials in countries like Japan and South Korea, where urban space constraints make sustainable alternatives appealing.

Why Choose an Eco Burial?

Opting for an eco burial is a personal choice that shows a commitment to the environment. Here’s why more people are choosing this path:

  • Environmental Impact: Eco burials reduce carbon footprints, minimise land use, and avoid harmful chemicals, contributing to a healthier planet.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Often, eco burials can be more affordable than traditional ones, avoiding expensive embalming and elaborate caskets.
  • Personal and Spiritual Fulfilment: For many, an eco burial aligns with their values and beliefs, offering a way to return to the earth naturally and peacefully.

Eco burials are a compassionate and sustainable way to say goodbye. They allow us to honour our person while being mindful of the planet, making our final act one of respect and care for the environment. Whether you’re considering an eco burial for yourself or a loved one, there are many resources a

nd communities in Australia and beyond that can help guide you on this meaningful journey. Embrace the change and explore the beautiful, earth-friendly options available, making death not just an end, but a gentle return to nature.

Treena’s eco-conscious burial on her own land, serves as a reminder that we can honour our values even in death. Her life and death certainly inspire me to tread lightly on this earth and leave a legacy of care and respect for the environment.

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