The Grass May be Greener on the Other Side

by McAlister-Smith Funeral Cremation

We have been caring for our own dead since the beginning of time. People died at home and were “viewed” by friends and family at home and then buried on their own property alongside generations of family members. The modern-day concept of “natural burial” is slightly different. It refers more to the final processing of the dead.

Natural burial (also described as green burial) is defined as: the natural internment of the body of a dead person in the soil in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition but allows the body to recycle naturally – an alternate to other contemporary Western burial methods.

In essence, there is nothing placed within, around, or on the person that is not natural or that prolongs the natural process of the body breaking down after death. No embalming of the body with unnatural chemicals, no placing of the body in an unnatural container, and no chemicals utilized on the grounds of the burial site. With no artificial chemicals or materials used, the body naturally breaks down into the soil and is recycled into something new. There is no waste.

By allowing nature to take its course, nothing is going into the ground that is toxic, it is all natural. Preserves, such as Ramsey Creek (the first green burial site in the United States), have grounds that are not maintained with pesticides, are continually new with fresh plant growth, and utilize natural markers and pathways to identify grave sites. At the grave site, your family has the option to place a marker made of natural wood or stone, and plant flowers or bushes. Plants are met for approval by the cemetery to ensure that they will not be invasive or otherwise harmful to the natural site. If you enjoy gardening, this may be a pleasing way to think about death and your loved ones will feel better about it too.

Green burial sites employ land management techniques to ensure land is utilized and maintained in its most natural form. Once established as a green burial site, the land stands to be protected from being developed into any other form outside of its natural state. Burial sites are registered landmarks, with every burial recorded and mapped out. For this reason, the land has environmental protection and cannot be utilized in any other fashion.

To participate in a true “natural burial,” you must be laid to rest in a recorded Green Burial Cemetery. There are a few “hybrid” cemeteries, meaning a standard cemetery has a section designated for natural burials, but the concept in its truest form is meant to have acres of land designated as a natural burial site. This creates a community- a place where the living can find peace with death because they are surrounded by so much life. Two such places are here in South Carolina. Ramsey Creek Preserve was the first site in the United States designated as a green burial site. It sits in Westminster, SC, and was established in 1998. The other is Greenhaven Preserve in Eastover. If you would like more information about natural burial, however, the best place to start is your local funeral home.

The funeral industry continues to develop best practices to preserve our world, honor and celebrate each life, and help the living eternally memorialize. Funeral Directors are very knowledgeable on natural burial and will spend time pointing out all options to ensure this is the best choice for you and your family. You will want to know all of your options before making a decision and choose the one that ethically, morally, spiritually, and financially reflects you and your families’ values. Once you make your decision, your Funeral Director will create an official record of your personal plan-alleviating the burden of having to do it later.