Rest in peace with a tree instead of a headstone at green grave

THEY used to ask if you wanted to be cremated or buried. Now an Irish firm is offering you a further option – that of going to your final resting place without harming the planet.

The Woodbrook Natural Burial Ground in Killane, Co. Wexford, opened in 2010 to provide green burials as an alternative to traditional methods.

Natural burial grounds are graveyards in which the land is turned into a meadow or woodland. For each burial, gravestones are replaced by the planting of a tree and a symbolic marker.

Rosie Inman-Cook, manager of UK funeral advice charity The Natural Death Centre, explains: ‘Bodies are not embalmed. Coffins are biodegradable and ethically produced.’ The founder of the Wexford cemetery, Colin McAteer, was inspired by the emergence of natural burial grounds across the water: ‘The UK were far advanced in terms of offering options for people to be buried outside of the traditional graveyard setting,’ he said.

Green burial sites are not affiliated to any religious tradition: ‘Most natural burial sites are not consecrated.

They welcome people of all faiths or none at all,’ said Ms Inman-Cook.

One couple who have booked a spot in Woodbrook are Michael Duggan, a 60-year-old lorry driver from Curracloe, Co.Wexford, and his wife Barbara, 55.

Mr Duggan made the decision after his father Derek was buried there: ‘There was a small ceremony. It was calm as opposed to pompous. It’s a nice a place of itself.’ Demand for green burials is still limited in Ireland.

‘It’s mainstream in the UK. You are 20 years behind because you are still controlled by an entrenched industry and the Catholic Church,’ said Ms Inman-Cook.

But Graham Gleasure of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors disagrees: ‘Irish funerals are green. We use a timber coffin – other countries use bronze or steel,’ he said.

A plot at Woodbrook costs €910. Mr McAteer said this is the same price as plots in other cemeteries, but that green burials are cheaper as there is no headstone.

‘We’ve had 200 people prepaid for lots or have been buried so far,’ he added.

‘The burial site is a nice place of itself’.

Green Burials, Ireland, Irish Mail on Sunday

Mathilde Frot, The Irish Mail on Sunday, 2014

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