Skip to content

Green burials: your final gift to the Earth

environment Earth Day In the hands of trees growing seedlings. Bokeh green Background Female hand holding tree on nature field grass Forest conservation concept

I invite you to imagine a place of natural beauty where butterflies, bees and other pollinators busy themselves among the native plants and grasses, birds sing and nearby trees provide a shady canopy. 

Imagine having a picnic in the shade of a tree and reflecting on the love and memories you cherish of a family member or friend who died. That beloved person had asked that their remains be buried in this place to become one with the earth. In other words, they wanted their “last act” to be one of gratitude to the natural world that had sustained them during life and of which they were a part.

This is what a “natural burial ground” offers. 

Natural burial, also called “green burial” is a choice that many more people would request if offered that choice.

Conventional (modern) burial often comprises a chemically embalmed body in an expensive casket using valuable land and resources. Cemeteries may stipulate that graves contain a cement liner or vault which means that the body does not return to nature but is entombed within the cement structure.

Natural burial can protect the land forever while reducing the need for cremation and conventional burial. 

In a time of increasing concern for the climate and biodiversity loss, this is a simple and meaningful act of love and respect for the planet.

Climate Action Sarnia-Lambton made “natural (green) burial” one of our goals when we formed in 2018. After I gave a presentation at the Sarnia library theatre in February 2023, the possibility for a natural burial ground became a reality when a local landowner offered part of his land. 

After the initial enthusiasm the plan is now “on hold” due to a number of bureaucratic and financial challenges.

The majority of natural burial grounds in Canada are attached to existing cemeteries and are described as “hybrid” cemeteries. Human remains are interred in a natural setting with no embalming, no cement vault or liner in the grave and no headstone. 

A biodegradable casket is used or the body is wrapped in a shroud. After the grave is filled the land is protected and allowed to return to its natural state.

Why is natural burial a priority for me? In addition to my desire to be returned to the land as a part of nature it is also the most environmentally gentle choice. 

Many people are under the impression that cremation is “environmentally friendly.” It is not.

The large number of cremations that take place in Canada each day release airborne pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis. A body weighing 80Kg (176lb) will emit about 14.4Kg carbon into the atmosphere raising carbon dioxide levels. The cremation process relies on natural gas which is mostly methane and the process results in additional carbon dioxide emissions released to the atmosphere.

On April 9 at 7 p.m., a free presentation called “Eternally Green – Choose Natural Burial” will be held at the Sarnia library theatre, 124 Christina St. S. 

Mark Richardson, Manager of Cemetery Services for Niagara Falls will be coming to town to share his passion for making natural burial a choice for everyone. Sarnia-Lambton does not yet have a Natural Burial ground. I (and many others) would like to make it happen! Will you join me at the library on April 9? While I hope you enjoy a long and meaningful life also consider what your final act will be. 

Will it be an “earth friendly” choice? I hope so, and it would be a bonus if we could make that choice available to everyone.

These Canadian non-profits promote natural (green) burial grounds: 

Natural Burial Association
Green Burial Society of Canada


Allan McKeown is a member of Climate Action Sarnia-Lambton.

Join the Community: Receive Our Daily News Email for Free