What is a woodland burial?

A woodland burial is an environmentally friendly burial in a woodland or meadow setting. They usually take place in designated natural burial grounds, although some cemeteries have designated woodland areas. Essentially the aim of a woodland burial is to protect the environment and help the development of surrounding wildlife.

The following information explains how this green funeral option works, typical costs and how to find a natural burial ground near you.

What happens at a woodland burial?

As woodland burials preserve the environment, use of chemicals is forbidden. The deceased is dressed in natural biodegradable clothes and placed in an environmentally friendly coffin or shroud. There is no embalming and no headstone. Instead a tree may be planted, or a wooden plaque placed to mark the grave.  

Some natural burial grounds have an area where a service can be held. Alternatively, family and friends can gather by the graveside. Flowers are permitted but only if there is no plastic wrapping or ribbon.

The services available and the way you can mark the grave will vary depending on the burial ground, so it is important to check with the owners first.

What type of coffin is used at a natural burial?

As most coffins are made with a glue that contains formaldehyde, they can not be used at a woodland burial ground. Instead natural materials such as wicker, willow, cardboard and wool are used, all of which are biodegradable and chemical free.  

Where can I find a natural burial ground?

To find a natural burial ground near you, visit the Natural Death Centre website. Their directory lists more than 270 sites, all of which belong to the Association of Natural Burial Grounds. The ANBG’s ‘Code of Conduct’ ensures each member is committed to providing the highest professional and environmental standards.

If possible, it’s worth visiting the proposed site to understand what services they offer and get a feel for the environment. Some sites offer a choice of woodland or meadow plots too, so you can choose which best suits you and your family’s needs and budget.

How much does a woodland burial cost?

woodland burialsWoodland burial costs range from £500 to several thousand pounds depending on the site. Also, the location within the natural burial ground may affect the cost as more desirable scenic plots are frequently more expensive.

You may have to pay extra for the interment fees and some form of grave marking, be it a tree or memorial plaque. Not all sites offer an all-inclusive price so check what is included and ask what other costs there may be.  

Alternative green funeral options?

Woodland burials are a great idea for those wanting an environmentally friendly burial however not everyone wants to be buried. Whilst cremations aren’t as green as burials, there are still changes you can make that will help the environment.

  • Use recycled paper for your funeral stationery
  • Choose an eco-friendly biodegradable coffin
  • If possible, walk to the funeral rather than using a limousine, or carshare
  • Offset the carbon emissions by planting a tree
  • Don’t be embalmed as this creates toxins
  • Ask for donations to charity rather than flowers or wreaths that may have used pesticides
  • Avoid plastic wrapping and non-biodegradable materials on flowers if used
  • Use local business, for example funeral directors, flowers, coffins, catering services
  • Don’t have a memorial stone or if you do, choose recycled stone

What should I do now?

If you are looking for a natural burial site near you, the internet is a great place to start. It is worth visiting several sites so you can compare services on offer, price and location.

Alternatively to learn more about the different types of funeral service available, read our helpful guide.  

Types of funeral service

Updated 17th November 2020
by Ashley Shepherd
Ashley Shepherd

Ashley is the founder and managing director at Over50choices. With over 30 years’ experience in financial services, he has held senior roles in building societies, banks and insurance companies.

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