History of Green Burial

Green burial in its simplest form – placing a body directly into the earth in a simple grave - is nothing new; in fact, it is the oldest form of human disposition and has been practiced by human civilization for many thousands of years.  The modern green burial movement is more recent and has its roots in the United Kingdom.

By the early 1990’s England had an almost 98% cremation rate and environmental concerns around carbon fuel consumption and carbon emissions were becoming a concern in the context of the UK’s contribution to local and global climate change. 

At the same time, some of England’s most pristine and picturesque natural landscapes were falling to development and being encroached upon by rapidly expanding urbanization. Environmentalists were seeking a way to conserve some of these key natural areas.

From these two challenges – cremation’s effect on the climate and natural landscape conservation – came the concept that one simple action – a green burial –  might reverse the number of cremations being performed and natural landscapes and protected conservation areas could be created and funded by making them green burial cemeteries, thus protecting these sites from disturbance, in perpetuity.

Since those early days, green or natural burial has been widely adopted throughout the UK with many large and small green burial cemeteries throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Green burial has also expanded to the USA with green cemeteries located across the states. Canada’s first urban green burial site opened in Victoria, B.C. in 2008 and since then only a small number of other communities in Canada have green burial available in their communities.

Admittedly, Canada is lagging behind in green burial adoption. But the Green Burial Society of Canada plans to change that. Through education, advocacy, ‘buy-in’ from death care service providers, and with the hard work of a passionate membership, the goal is to bring green burial to every community that wants it.

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There is no reason why the plans we make around our own burial or cremation cannot be in keeping with practices that are supportive of nature and mindful of the environment.