What happens to your mortal remains is up to you and the executors of your will.
Choose executors prepared to obey the funeral instructions in your will. Nicholas
Albery, editor of The
Natural Death Handbook and a director of the UK educational charity the Natural Death Centre, prefers to leave
his body to nature. In his will, he has specified that he wants to be buried on
a piece of farmland that he and his wife were given as a wedding present, with
no coffin, just wrapped in a sheet, and with an apple tree planted on top of him.
To order books on this theme.
- Two thirds of the people in the UK - such is their
superstition about contemplating their own mortality - do not write a
- Leaving your body to science is an uncertain business - only
non-cancerous, unautopsied, relatively whole bodies, within easy range of a
medical school, are accepted.
- Anyone with green pretensions should
think twice about cremation - 437,000 wooden coffins are wastefully burnt
in the UK each year, polluting the atmosphere with dioxin, hydrochloric
acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.
least burial, even with a wooden coffin, locks the carbon underground and
does not add to
the greenhouse effect. And it helps protect land from being used by humans,
thus saving it for wildlife.
- The Natural Death Handbook explains how
families can go about organising cheap, green and
- Burials at sea: about 20 UK burials a year take place
at sea. The licence is free, though the Ministry of Agriculture has
produced a minefield of bureaucratic guidelines to discourage
- There are 85 or so nature
grounds in the UK already open, with 40 more applying for planning
permission. At these woodland burial grounds, a tree is
planted for each grave, which has no headstone, and, for those not using
undertakers, cardboard coffins are obtainable, starting at £ 55, wooden
coffins from £ 45 or lovely woollen shrouds at £ 120.
- The Centre has launched an Association
of Natural Burial Grounds with criteria that help to set standards, to
protect members of the public and to provide a network for the various grounds
throughout the UK.
Centre has published the laws and regulations for the UK surrounding
burial on farmland and in large private gardens (research conducted by John Bradfield of the A. B. Welfare and Wildlife Trust and published by the Centre, with proceeds kindly donated by John Bradfield to the Centre). A recent case in England
and a planning appeal in Scotland have confirmed that no planning
permission is required for "a limited number of unmarked and unfenced
graves". Anyone who nevertheless wishes
to consult the Environment Agency (which encapsulates the
former National Rivers Authority) and their local
council environmental health department about possible pollution of water
courses should go armed with chapter and verse on the regulations
(available in the New Natural Death Handbook),
authorities find it hard to believe that the right to private burial has
persisted from the days when Quakers often used to bury their relatives in
- Beware - garden burial can cause dissension if not all
members of the family are in favour, and can reduce the value of the
- The Natural Death Handbook (382 pages) and various other books are available.
You can place a secure online order)
or contact The Natural Death Centre, 6 Blackstock Mews, Blackstock Road, London
N4 2BT, UK (tel 020 7 359 8391). The Natural Death Handbook also covers Living
Wills, Advance Funeral Wishes Forms, Death Plans, financial preparations for
dying, caring for the dying, laying out the body, making a coffin, a good
funeral guide to helpful professionals, bereavement, books and UK organisations.
For information on green burial in the States see the Natural Death Centre's US Funeral Resources Page.
The A. B. Welfare and Wildlife Trust is the Centre's source of trustworthy information on complex legal questions surrounding burial issues. They can be contacted at 7 Knox Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 3EF, UK (tel 01423 530900 and 868121). Registered charity number 1037444.
The Natural Death Centre
6 Blackstock Mews, Blackstock Road, London N4 2BT, UK.
The Natural Death Centre is a project of the the
Institute for Social Inventions which runs the Global Ideas Bank.
e-mail: email@example.com; tel [Int. 44]
(0)20 7 359 8391; fax [Int. 44] (0)20 7 354 3831