Funeral Services & Wakes

Many of us are trying to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly life, so it should come as no surprise to find that the number of green funerals is on the rise. A natural burial (or eco-friendly funeral) aims to have a minimal impact on the environment.

The First Natural Burial Ground


Carlisle City Council was the first to establish a natural burial site in the UK. It opened in 1993, with the aim of creating a nature reserve. You won’t find any headstones or grave markers here. Instead, graves are marked with a native species of tree.

Today, there are natural and woodland burial sites all over the country. Most bear no comparison to a traditional cemetery (although some are situated in a designated area of one). Natural burial grounds can vary enormously, so it is always worth paying a visit. Some are run by local authorities or large companies; others are privately owned. Meadows, forests, coastal paths, woodland and farmland are all being used as beautiful final places of rest. (If you need any help or advice, please get in touch. Another good source of information is the Association of Natural Burial Grounds.)

Green Funerals


If you are considering a green funeral, there are a number of important things to consider. As mentioned previously, a traditional headstone is not an option. Depending on the natural burial ground, the grave maybe allowed to be marked with a stone, a wooden marker or a plant. Please bear in mind that it might not be possible to mark the grave with anything at all.

Another consideration is that many natural burial sites don’t allow the body to be embalmed as some of the chemicals used in the process may pollute the ground.

If the body is to be buried in a coffin then one made from mahogany wood with shiny brass handles isn’t an option. The coffin will need to be made exclusively from biodegradable materials. Think willow/wicker, bamboo, banana leaf or cardboard. We regularly use a Somerset willow coffin manufacturer. The load-bearing handles are made from willow and the coffin liner is biodegradable. Whichever coffin you choose, it is important to remember that everything is supposed to return to the earth. It must be quick and easy to decompose and be environmentally friendly.

Transportation to the burial ground might also be a consideration. Arriving in a traditional petrol-powered hearse may not sit comfortably with some. At Robson and Stephens, we have arranged for horse drawn carriages and horse draw hearses to be used. They really are eco-friendly options!

An Early Pioneer Of Green Funerals


Here in Somerset, an early pioneer of natural burials was Barbara Butler of Green Undertakings. Back in the early 1990s, Barbara was offering families more environmentally friendly burial choices. The emphasis was on providing families with choices outside of the ‘norm’. It is an approach that the team at Robson & Stephens is happy to embrace.

It is important that families know that there are numerous funeral options open to them. It is our job to listen to family members and find the right way for them to bid farewell to their loved one. For some, a traditional, conventional service may not be the right choice. Perhaps a coffin isn’t required and a simple shroud would work best. Maybe the ceremony or service would be better conducted by a celebrant, or possibly the emphasis needs to be on a separate party or celebration of life.

A Funeral Director should have no preconceived ideas as to how a funeral service should be conducted. It is why Robson & Stephens is happy to work closely with Green Undertakings to ensure we offer our families as much choice as possible.

A Final Thought


With the number of natural burial grounds now numbered in the hundreds, we have come a long way since Ken West championed the first site in Carlisle and Barbara Butler formed Green Undertakings. In life, we are used to having countless options available to us, it’s worth remembering that there are plenty to consider for our final place of rest.

If you would like more information on the funeral options available, please get in touch.