Quick Guide to Natural Cemeteries

According to National Geographic, American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. So, it’s no surprise that as people become more aware of our overall footprint on the planet, green end-of-life arrangements and natural burial arrangements have increased in popularity.

How many people are interested in eco-friendly burial alternatives?

According to the 2019 Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), 51.6% of respondents would be interested in exploring “green” funeral options because of potential environmental and cost-saving benefits.

In natural burials, the body is not injected with preservative chemicals, cremated, or buried in concrete or metal coffins. Graves are dug by hand, not with heavy machinery. Remains are placed in biodegradable containers and buried in designated natural burial cemeteries, where they can decompose and return to nature.

What are Natural Cemeteries?

According to U.S. Funerals Online, there are some 160 natural burial cemeteries in the U.S. Natural cemeteries are certified locations authorized to perform natural burials. Any material used at a natural cemetery must replenish the earth. These cemeteries don’t use traditional headstones as markers. Instead, they use natural rocks or even plaques not set in concrete to identify the remains’ locations. To help preserve the landscape and wildlife, some natural cemeteries don’t use any markers and instead use GPS coordinates to identify each grave’s location.

How much does Natural Burial Cost?

As with most things, costs vary.  Industry resources report that natural burial costs range from $1,000 to $4,000. The burial itself often includes a one-time endowment for care to maintain the property, fees to open and close the grave, and the burial plot itself. Options for markers vary from cemetery to cemetery. Additional charges would apply for any type of funeral, including memorial service or processing and transport of the body.

Choosing a Cemetery

Each natural cemetery has its policies and limitations. Most have specific rules about the type of memorial decorations, potted flowers, or the type of plantings they allow. While some cemeteries specialize only in natural burials, there are also hybrid cemeteries. These are conventional cemeteries that have a special certification that allows them to offer eco-friendly burial options.

At Destination Destiny, we are experts in natural burial services and own five cemeteries across the United States you can choose from. Here’s what makes each of them unique:

#1. Historic Columbian Cemetery, Portland, OR

This historic cemetery is located close to the Columbia River, and has been a resting place for diverse groups of people since 1857. This is a hybrid cemetery certified by the Green Burial Council. The green gardens at this hybrid cemetery offer ​​cremated remain burial and full-body burial services.

#2. Moravian High Acres Cemetery, Canadensis, PA

This natural cemetery, in use since 1848, is centrally located in the Village of Canadensis in Barrett Township of Monroe County. Even though the cemetery has been around for over 150 years, they still have many acres of space available and undeveloped land. This location is also home to the Alpine Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary. The natural burial ground is destined to help protect its surrounding areas and preserve Pocono mountain history. This natural cemetery is certified by the Green Burial Council.

#3. Purissima Cemetery, Half Moon Bay, CA

This cemetery dates to the 1860s, but was abandoned till 2017, when it was purchased and restored. This site, which is certified by the Green Burial council, is located alongside the Purisima Creek, with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The cemetery has various burial sections available and an eco-friendly trail system.

#4. Steelmantown Cemetery, Steelmantown, NJ

This cemetery, certified by the Green Burial Council, has been around since the 1700s. It offers eco-friendly burial services to ensure remains have an organic return to the earth. They use natural stone as markers, their graves are hand dug, and they don’t use concrete vaults or embalming fluids.

#5. Westwood Hills Memorial Park, Placerville, CA

This hybrid cemetery is surrounded by the El Dorado foothills near the El Dorado National Forest. It is certified by the Green Burial Council and offers cremated burials as well as full-body natural burials.

#6. Whitewater Cemetery, Altura, MN

Only a few miles from the Mississippi River and surrounded by thousands of protected acres of the Whitewater State Wildlife Management Area, Whitewater Cemetery is part of one the most unique and breathtaking landscapes in America.  Neighboring towns, whose roots began in the 1800s, may not all remain; but those buried in Whitewater Cemetery still have stories to tell.

Options for alternative burials will continue to grow as the desire for eco-friendly options increases. Destination Destiny is grateful to bring natural burial to more communities and is pleased to announce that new cemeteries will be opening this spring and summer, in St. Croix, WI, Humboldt, CA, and Los Angeles, CA. If you are interested in learning more about these new locations, please call (609) 628-2297.

If you are considering environmentally friendly options for a family member’s life celebration or would like to make future preparations for yourself, contact us to learn more about our available options.