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Would you prefer a natural burial?

By Alexandra Craig - 23 June 2015 45

gungahlin cemetery

When people pass away, the majority of them are either buried in a coffin or are cremated. But now plans are underway for Canberra’s deceased to be buried without a coffin. To be clear, when this is implemented, it will not be compulsory to be buried coffin-less. It’s a choice.

Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said last week that many people are looking for more environmentally friendly ways to be buried. Being buried without a coffin, a ‘natural burial’, doesn’t involve any chemicals that might be used during an embalming process, and obviously doesn’t use the energy that would be used in a cremation.

The Minister also said that the burials would take up less land because people would be buried vertically, rather than horizontally. The Minister expects that natural burials will be a welcome option in the ACT, given that cardboard coffins are already used here.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m in a couple of different minds about it depending on whether it’s myself being buried or a family member, and whether or not I’m particularly close to that family member, plus a whole lot of other factors.

If I was the one to pass away, I don’t really care what people do with me. I hate money being spent on me so if it’s cheaper to chuck me into a hole with no coffin or whatever, go for it. If it was my partner that passed away, I don’t know what I would want for him. I suppose it depends on the circumstance and how I was coping. I know a lot of people deal with their pain by giving their loved one a really fancy farewell service with a nice casket and the like, while others cope by keeping the ashes with them.

I think it’s great that the government is offering this as an option for burial. It’s good for the environment and I assume it will be cheaper too. However, I expect there to be a lot of varied opinions on this.

What do you think about natural burials? Would you opt for it yourself or for a loved one? 

What’s Your opinion?


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45 Responses to
Would you prefer a natural burial?
rubaiyat 2:25 pm 23 Jun 15

justin heywood said :

You only get to die once. If you want the bells and whistles, you shouldn’t have to justify it. Things like this help cement the Green’s reputation for self-righteousness.

Yeah don’t you just hate everyone who is even barely trying?

That’s the exactly sentiment that we need: “Stuff the Greens, Stuff the Planet, Stuff YOU!”

rubaiyat 2:21 pm 23 Jun 15

justin heywood said :

Alexandra Craig said :

…….the trees that get cut down to build coffins….

Actually, I think cutting down a tree and burying the timber would be a net environmental positive, in terms of carbon anyway. The environmental cost would be minuscule compared to the travel and hospitality that goes with any decent-sized funeral. Just saying.

Is there currently a restriction on these type of burials anyway? Could you not instruct the funeral director to only use organic free-trade chemicals and be buried standing on your head, if you wanted? Is there currently a bureaucrat recording which way you go in?

You only get to die once. If you want the bells and whistles, you shouldn’t have to justify it. Things like this help cement the Green’s reputation for self-righteousness.

Processing and transporting the timber would vastly negate any supposed benefit to burying it where fungus will break it down and release the CO2 again.

Bioichar on the other hand is a great solution and acts as a long term fertiliser and should be taken up in a big way in this country. Maybe we can all go as biochar?

Raging Tempest 2:06 pm 23 Jun 15

I’m all for it; once everything that can be re-used is taken out, my body doesn’t need to be pumped full of chemicals and sealed in a box.

justin heywood 1:36 pm 23 Jun 15

Alexandra Craig said :

…….the trees that get cut down to build coffins….

Actually, I think cutting down a tree and burying the timber would be a net environmental positive, in terms of carbon anyway. The environmental cost would be minuscule compared to the travel and hospitality that goes with any decent-sized funeral. Just saying.

Is there currently a restriction on these type of burials anyway? Could you not instruct the funeral director to only use organic free-trade chemicals and be buried standing on your head, if you wanted? Is there currently a bureaucrat recording which way you go in?

You only get to die once. If you want the bells and whistles, you shouldn’t have to justify it. Things like this help cement the Green’s reputation for self-righteousness.

rubaiyat 1:04 pm 23 Jun 15

John Hargreaves said :

AND… whatever happened to the cemetery for Tuggeranong. It was promised to me when I was a backbencher in the Assembly…..

I’d take that as a threat, not a promise John! 😉

rubaiyat 1:03 pm 23 Jun 15

About time.

When I go I want a post hole borer to cut a 2m deep hole, pop me in and plant a tree on top.

The only “Afterlife” anyone can expect to have.

The thousands saved won’t go to some American rip off franchise funeral parlor, but to a worthy cause.

Roksteddy 12:35 pm 23 Jun 15

I’ve always thought this is a great idea and have talked about this with my wife even before the first natural burial places were introduced. I would like to be just left out in the bush – where I love being and spend much of my time working, so that my body is returned to nature. Obviously this is not an option – it would be potentially traumatic for bushwalkers! So a natural burial is the next best thing. There is already a bush cemetery up in Lismore.

I’ve got no desire for my family to spend thousands on an expensive coffin when I’m gone. Just get rid of my body in the most inexpensive and environmentally friendly way possible!

chewy14 12:31 pm 23 Jun 15

I want to be mummified and buried in an airtight, stainless steel casket.

vintage123 12:25 pm 23 Jun 15

Growing up in western Victoria I recall an area near a salt lake where they would take unclaimed “john doe”, use a tractor with an auger, drill a vertical post hole and slide the person in and then backfill.

dungfungus 12:17 pm 23 Jun 15

A heavy slab over the hole would be necessary to stop foxes digging down.
I buried a pet dog in my backyard last year (hole was 1 metre deep) but that didn’t stop a fox almost exhuming the poor fellah.

John Hargreaves 12:17 pm 23 Jun 15

AND… whatever happened to the cemetery for Tuggeranong. It was promised to me when I was a backbencher in the Assembly…..

John Hargreaves 12:16 pm 23 Jun 15

Funerals are all about the living. I want a huge wake with the fire brigade invited to the cremation – they’ll be needed.

I am hoping for a wake one week before I cark…

Alexandra Craig 10:51 am 23 Jun 15

justin heywood said :

Two questions;

1. Do the current burial methods present a real environmental hazard?

2. I suppose the ’embalming chemicals’ serve some purpose, otherwise why use them. Personally, I don’t mind how I go out, but I’m not keen to be remembered by the godawful smell at my graveside service.

In relation to your first point, I think it has to do with the whole “production line” of a burial in terms of the trees that get cut down to build coffins, then the energy associated with building a coffin, the lacquer on the outside of the coffin etc, and I suppose some coffins aren’t especially biodegradable.

Regarding your second point, I think that natural burials have to happen in a special ‘green’ cemetery or a specifically designated part of a cemetery. I think embalming chemicals are only used to preserve the body if there’s a viewing before/at the funeral. I could be wrong though.

justin heywood 10:33 am 23 Jun 15

Two questions;

1. Do the current burial methods present a real environmental hazard?

2. I suppose the ’embalming chemicals’ serve some purpose, otherwise why use them. Personally, I don’t mind how I go out, but I’m not keen to be remembered by the godawful smell at my graveside service.

Dame Canberra 10:22 am 23 Jun 15

I think natural burials are a great idea, and it would be my preference to be laid to rest that way.

That said, I can see how families might be uncomfortable carrying out the deceased’s wish to be buried without a traditional coffin – kind of in the same way how relatives aren’t always okay with consenting to organ donation, even if the deceased has expressed their desire to do so.

Death is always a sensitive topic and grief is powerful. I suppose having the conversation about natural burial/organ donation with loved ones is the way to go.

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