A message from Professor David Bellamy

Woodland Burial — Let your last footprint be a green one!

Each of us must make a choice, or have the choice made for us, of what will happen to our bodies when we die. Cremation is currently the main one and whilst convenient, it is having a severe impact on the environment. The alternative until late has been burial in municipal cemeteries but this form of burial has resulted in vast amounts of land becoming covered with long rows of graves. Many of these cemeteries are reaching capacity and the sight of vandalism and dilapidated headstones is a poor tribute to our loved ones.

You now have an alternative choice; to be buried in a woodland setting. If you choose woodland burial you will usually save money, protect the environment and importantly make a lasting positive contribution towards a woodland nature reserve which will last for generations to come.

Everybody is now able to choose woodland burial, those with a particular faith and those with no religious faith at all. They will all be united in one important truth, they will have chosen not to share in practices which cause damage to the environment. Instead they will share in leaving behind a legacy that will be of lasting benefit for our children and grandchildren and for generations to come.

Supporting the Environment

So why is a Woodland Burial better for the environment?

Cremations inflict a high toll on the environment; a cremator needs to operate at 760-1150C for between one and three hours per cremation and uses about 285 kilowatt hours of gas and 15kWh of electricity on average per cremation - roughly the same domestic energy demands as a single person for an entire month. Cremation is also responsible for 16% of the UK’s mercury pollution from dental fillings, other atmospheric dioxins and pollutants linked with cancer and other illnesses.

There is growing pressure on government and local authorities to behave in an environmentally sustainable way, however the way to cut harmful emissions is to burn at higher temperatures! Burning bodies uses precious fuels and creates greenhouse gases, cremation is definitely not the answer for those care about their carbon footprint on the planet or those they leave behind!

Other factors to consider are the headstones, often imported vast distances (many from abroad such as India, China etc). The quarries inflict serious environmental damage on the landscape and transportation burns significant fossil fuel and pollutes our air and oceans.

Coffins are no exception, with those destined for both cremation and ordinary burial usually being made of MDF, or chipboard bonded with formaldehyde resin, with plastic handles and synthetic veneers. These are obviously unsuitable for woodland burial since they are not environmentally friendly and do not naturally decompose in the ground.

Many bodies are often embalmed, a process where all blood and bodily fluids are replaced with a formaldehyde based fluid, this can enter watercourses and prevents natural decomposition. Certainly not an ideal solution in a woodland setting.

How can we make a difference?

Woodland burial is increasingly the responsible choice for people who want to be laid to rest in a way that doesn't harm the environment. Often called green burial, natural burial, or environmentally friendly funerals, this is an obvious choice for those people who want their last footprint to be a green one. Those choosing a woodland burial will be asked to have coffins made of natural materials such as real wood, wicker, or bamboo. Instead of rows of tombstones, woodland burial grounds have wooden memorials and plant trees to create a nature reserve with birds and other forms of wildlife.

Over the period of our lives we use up a vast amount of natural resources. Woodland burial is a way of acknowledging that fact and trying to put something back into the environment that has sustained us throughout our lives, the ultimate recycle.

Wildlife

In this country we have sadly lost much of our natural woodland and from an environmental standpoint it is becoming increasingly important that we not only preserve what is left of our natural world, but where possible create new havens for wildlife.

The Trust strongly supports this approach and together with environmental specialists, Friends of the Woodland and other charities such as the RSPB etc. it is doing everything it can to reverse the decline evidenced across many species of animal and fauna – a truly ‘holistic’ approach from the ground up.

Native trees have been planted in the area and the likes of the Oak are well known to support a myriad of different species that in turn will support an entire food chain. Owl boxes have been placed at strategic places, Red Kites are often seen in the skies above the woodland together with deer, foxes and many smaller animals which are now calling the woodland, home.

Ancient Woodland

In early times Keysoe had in the order of 350 acres of Oak woodland. Sadly there is little evidence of that now with most of the local countryside being used for arable farming. The Trust is looking to reverse this trend and to ensure that such catastrophic treatment never happens to our woodland again, we protect the land using the strongest laws possible under English Law, namely ‘Consecration’. You can read more about it under our section entitled ‘Consecration’.

Our woodland will survive and whilst we will never see the ancient woodland in its full glory, we can take reassurance from the fact that what we do today, we do for the endless generations that will follow us.