A 'restoration' natural burial ground is a dedicated natural burial place, established on land that has been cleared or is in need of environmental restoration. Importantly, the fees charged for burial in a restoration natural burial ground are used to fund further land-scape scale, restoration programs at other environmentally significant locations.
No two burial grounds will be the same, but most will share some common features, like native vegetation, walking and access paths and essential infrastructure like parking and toilets. Genuine natural burial grounds are not part of an existing cemetery, so you won’t see any large headstones, manicured lawns, or typical infrastructure like office buildings, asphalt roads, or built memorials. Truly green cemeteries don’t resemble common-place cemeteries at all.
Restoring the environment is a core value for Earth Funerals, so ideally, we’re looking to establish natural burial grounds on exhausted farm or grazing land reasonably close to the population centres. In the beginning, after mapping all the grave sites, about one-third of the land is revegetated to create boundary buffer zones and smaller burial groves. During its active phase (when burials are occurring) the natural burial ground will resemble a grassy native park land. As sections of the site are used, additional ‘in-planting’ of trees, shrubs and grasses will transform the area into a lightly wooded parkland.
When all the grave sites in the burial ground have been used, the whole area will be preserved as a native vegetation site and memorial forest, resembling national and state park areas.
The law requires that formal records of all burials be kept. As such, a copy of the location of burials will be available on our website. Our burial grounds are fully mapped by maintaining multiple electronic and hard copy records. We also use non-electronic methods, like permanent survey markers, to allow for a highly accurate location of every grave.
Our natural burial service is available for everyone—regardless of their background or belief system.
A natural burial ground is a life-centred place providing the opportunity for peaceful contemplation. Gatherings for memorial planting and other commemorative events would be well aligned with these values, but other public events may not be appropriate, particularly since the built infrastructure at a natural burial ground is deliberately kept to a minimum.
All funeral types involve a similar use of resources to transport, hold and contain the remains of the deceased. Cremation uses fuel (gas, electricity) and emits atmospheric pollution. In virtually all cases, both traditional and natural burials (known as green burials, eco-burials or conservation burials) also use some fuel to dig and refill graves.
Traditional burial results in non-biodegradable, and potentially toxic, materials being buried in the earth. In contrast, a genuine natural burial process conforms to the principles of permaculture and yields a neutral environmental impact.
Logically, and emotionally, a natural burial and green funeral represents the simplest, cheapest, lowest impact end-of-life option. This is even more so in the case of an Earth Funerals natural burial, where proceeds from the funeral are directed to fund environmental restoration works.
“With minimal resource demands, a natural burial is expected to result in low greenhouse gas emissions for each funeral service. The purchase of carbon offsets proposed by earth funerals will likely cover the greenhouse gas emissions of the funeral service many times over, making earth funerals a carbon positive story.” - Paul-Antione, LCA analyst
The term ‘carbon neutral’ is used to describe the situation where a producer of goods or services measures the carbon costs of products and purchases carbon offsets of a matching value. In other words, their activities do not cost the environment.
The term ‘carbon positive’ refers to a situation where a producer of goods or services measures the carbon costs of their products, and purchases carbon offsets that exceed the environmental cost of production.
Goods and services that are genuinely carbon neutral are preferable to those produced without consideration for environmental cost. However, carbon positive goods and services set a new standard by going beyond neutrality and making a positive contribution to the restoration of the environment.
The natural environment has been overtaxed by production and consumption. Think about it like a bank account that has been overdrawn. Being carbon neutral is like withdrawing one dollar and then depositing one dollar—there’s activity, but the account balance never changes. Being carbon positive is like withdrawing one dollar and then depositing ten dollars so that eventually the account builds back up. Choosing carbon positive goods and services is a practical real-world way to help get our natural environment ‘out of the red’.
Yes. From the moment we’re born until the day we die our lives are supported in virtually every way by the natural environment. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the computer or phone you are using right now…they all come from the natural resources of the planet. The environmental cost of products and services is measured in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide (C02) generated in their production, use and disposal. This is called Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
Federal government statistics show that in Australia in 2017 the amount of C02 generated per person was about 21.6 metric tonnes. Across an average lifetime of say eighty years, that’s about 1,730 tonnes of carbon.
Anyone can offset the C02 their life generates by investing in carbon offset products, eco-friendly services that reduce the production of C02, or projects like tree planting that help capture carbon from the atmosphere.
The availability of land for burial is one factor, but it’s not necessarily the main issue. If a person wanted to be buried in an inner-city cemetery, where remaining space was limited, a high cost is likely. However, the universal driver of high cemetery prices is the cost of the endless maintenance associated with traditional monument and lawn cemeteries. If the problem was just space, then cemeteries in regional and rural areas (where space is not an issue) would not need to charge up to $2,000 or more for a site and grave digging.
Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.
Greenwashing is a deliberate act to mislead customers. Unfortunately, it exists to some extent in every industry and the commercial funeral sector is no exception. The pursuit of profit often overrides ethical standards, and it’s common to see words like green, natural and eco used in funeral business names, services and products without any real justification.
In all Australian states, a burial must take place in a legal burial place, and the cremation of a body can only occur at a licensed crematorium. There are also regulations governing how human remains are to be handled, transported and housed prior to and during a funeral, as well as a small number of legally mandated requirements (e.g. registration of death, application for a cremation permit, etc.).
Provided the legal requirements are met, a DIY funeral, or family-directed funeral, is possible, but it is fair to say that at the time of a death it would be a reasonably daunting task for most people to work systematically through these (often) unfamiliar processes. If handling every part of the funeral (or at least all those parts that are legally possible) is important to you, then it’s best to prepare and learn about the processes in advance. We understand, of course, that it’s not always a possibility.
In our experience, what most people desire is the choice of being involved, or not, in certain parts of the funeral process that are important or meaningful to them. Earth Funerals willingly provides the opportunity for individuals, or family members, to be actively involved in virtually any aspect of the funeral—provided it is legal and safe to do so. There’s also the option to elect for a no service cremation, earth burial, or no service funeral.
It’s a legally constituted charity that, once fully established, becomes financially self-sustaining by means of trading.
As a charity, a CTC has a clearly defined charitable purpose and structure. It’s legally required to apply any and all financial surpluses to its stated purpose and, conversely, is legally forbidden from distributing profits.
As a trading entity, a CTC offers goods and/or services to customers. Those goods and/or services may be unique to the enterprise, or similar, or identical to, those commonly provided by commercial businesses or government.
Funding for the establishment of a CTC is by way of donations. This ensures that financial surpluses are directed solely toward the charitable purpose, and not toward servicing debt or providing a return to stakeholders.
A true charity must be able to give and receive—but must not owe or be owed.
Established as a CTC, Earth Funerals will offer professional end-of-life services and simple funerals. By promoting the establishment of stand-alone natural earth burial grounds and carbon positive cremations, and directing any financial surpluses to landscape scale and ecological restoration programs, we’ll run an effective not-for-profit that leaves an environmental legacy.
The Sociocratic Circle-organisation Method (SCM - sometimes called Dynamic Governance in the USA) is based on a simple, elegant set of principles that provide a solid foundation for effective, transparent governance and decision-making. These principles are:
Consent - policy decisions are made by consent. Consent means there are no objections to a policy. Objections are seen as valuable feedback that will help improve a proposed policy. Objections arise when a proposed policy conflicts with the organisation's mission and aims, or with a role within the organisation. Objections can be clearly explained to all involved, even if not all agree with the objection.
Circles - a circle is a semi-autonomous, self- organising entity within an organisation - like a division, department, team, working group, and so on. Circles meet to determine policies in their domain of responsibility, using consent decision-making. Circles reflect operational structure, and include all roles and activities within an organisation.
Double Linking - provides multi-directional feedback. Effective feedback paths are provided by double-linking - two people who are full members of both linked circles. This enables policy-making that reflects the needs of all those affected by a decision.
In addition, there are three foundational values in the SCM:
Equivalence - when making policy decisions to guide their work, members of the organisation function as peers.
Transparency - members of the organisation have direct access to the information they need to make high quality decisions in their areas of responsibility and accountability.
Effectiveness - the organisation and its members consistently practise self-improvement through measurement, feedback and evaluation to support ongoing and increasing effectiveness of the organisation.
Yes. We are currently accepting expressions of interest from skilled and energetic professionals to form a two-member executive team to facilitate the launch of Earth Funerals’ operations in Victoria, and then nationally. Reporting to the Project Director, the executive team would operate in a semi-autonomous role and take day-to-day responsibility for operations. Funeral industry experience is not essential, but candidates with practical experience and/or tertiary level qualifications in business, marketing, psychology or similar disciplines may be well suited. This is a ground-level opportunity for two focussed and motivated team players to become part of the values-driven Charitable Trade Corp. that is creating the Earth Funerals legacy.