Two possibilities for Ontario: hybrids and stand-alones
Stand-alone green burial grounds are enveloped in a natural landscape. Some span a hundred acres, and others are smaller, yet nestled in nature in every direction. Stand-alones aren’t attached to conventional cemeteries. Ontario doesn’t have any stand-alone natural burial grounds yet (we’re working on it!), but you can marvel at beautiful sites that inspire us.
Hybrids are green sections found within a conventional cemetery. They are smaller, usually between half an acre and two acres. Below are some lovely hybrids that truly follow the tenets of natural burial.
There’s a groundswell of interest in natural burial grounds across Ontario, and individuals and groups are taking up the cause. Some are advocating for hybrids, and others aspire to expansive stand-alone sites in the countryside. There are private property owners who would love to create a natural burial ground on their land and others in search of land. If you don’t see your community listed below, maybe you’d like to lead the charge?
The Natural Burial Association helps both local groups advocating for a natural burial ground, and we support individuals who see the possibility of a natural burial ground on their countryside property. Please get in touch if we can help.
Willow’s Rest, offers 2 acres of natural habitat nestled at the back of Fairview Cemetery. Nearly two hundred new native trees create an enclosure for the beautiful wildflower meadow. A local artist carved a bench and sculpture from a fallen ash tree. There are several monarch butterfly pollinator gardens, as well as bee hives. An educational program invites school groups to help plant wildflowers and expose them to something natural in life: death. (Green Burial Society of Canada accreditation).
With two osprey nests, nearby and wildflowers in abundance, Waterloo’s Parkview Cemetery has created a green burial area as a natural means of caring for the deceased with minimal environmental consequences. The green burial area offers a colourful and pleasing cemetery landscape that promotes native insects, wildlife and organisms to find habitat. Once a green burial has been completed a new cover of native wildflower seed mix is spread over the site, and a locally sourced communal stone memorial is available for engraving the names of loved ones.
Union Cemetery’s green burial section, which opened in 2012, is Ontario’s first modern day green burial. Behind the conventional cemetery lies a meadow overlooking Cobourg Creek. The managers of the site do all they can to minimize a carbon footprint, including digging the graves by hand. Dedicated land stewards, they also pull out any invasive species by hand. If cremated remains are at home waiting to be interred together with a loved one then they will accept those cremains, understanding that partners and families desire to rest together.
In the middle of the picturesque town of Picton lies a cemetery that dates back to the 1870s. Within the cemetery grounds, Glenwood Cemetery created a final resting place among the trees. Names of the deceased are etched in bronze plaques attached to a large boulder. In this woodland burial site, attention is paid to leave the tree roots undisturbed. (Green Burial Society of Canada accreditation).
The cemetery operator shared a story about checking on a grave that had been prepared the day before the burial. The operator went to the woods to see that everything was ok, and found three blue jays on the grave cover. She conveyed this to the family and discovered that one of them was wearing a t-shirt with three blue jays on the back.
In spring 2022, this quiet corner of Grey County opened a natural burial section at Holstein Cemetery. The inspiring addition to the historic cemetery was donated by a local farmer (whose family has been involved in Ontario agriculture for over 100 years!), motivated by his own wish to be buried naturally. Surrounded by grazing sheep and wide-open skies, the designated acre will be nestled in between the existing cemetery and bordering woodland. And guess who’s keeping the weeds at bay — the sheep! A website’s in the works, but in the meantime, you can get in touch with Brian Stevenson at 519-323-7904.
At the turn of the century (!) a volunteer suggested the idea of a natural burial cemetery for the Roseneath community. “Everyone looked at me like I was crazy”, said the volunteer, who had grown up in the UK where his father was a grave digger. In 2014 St. James Cemetery lay the first person to rest in its natural area, a two-acre field donated by a local farmer, attached to St. James Cemetery (with tombstones dating back to the 1800s). In summer, waist high grasses, and wildflowers like poppies and forget me knots sway in the breeze. From the hilltop bench you can see for miles. Once a year the grass is cut to ward off invasive species, and sometimes that’s done with a scythe. Small flat markers modestly mark each grave. Families can participate in the filling of the grave.
Some cemeteries offer natural sections which follow some of the tenets of natural burial grounds, including the requirement for a biodegradable casket or shroud.
- Jordan has a 1/3 acre section within St. John’s Public Cemetery. While the grass is mowed and there isn’t an effort to bring back native species, this cemetery can make arrangements for families to dig the grave. This traditional ritual can be very meaningful. Families can also plant wildflowers. The natural section will be expanding.
- Brampton, Pickering offers 1/3 acre sections at Meadowvale Cemetery and Duffin Meadows, respectively. They are part of the Mount Pleasant Group chain.
Sites in the works
Kingston - a hybrid is coming soon! +
There’s a team of advocates in Kingston working hard to bring a natural burial ground to the area, and they recently achieved a win! The city of Kingston, and the Pine Grove Cemetery board has approved the creation of a 33 natural burial plots. Pine Grove Cemetery is located about half an hour north-east of downtown Kingston on Brewers Mills Road.Visit Green Burial Kingston to learn more about this site and membership in this dynamic group.
Through an opening among the trees at the back of the conventional cemetery is a lovely natural section, and plans are underway to create a natural burial ground which may be Ontario’s largest hybrid.
Stay in touch by signing-up for updates, and please provide your postal code so we know you’re from the Perth area.
Did you know that not far from Perth in Lanark County, Donna Mae Klassen makes hand-crafted coffins from locally sourced wood? You can learn more at Earth Bound Coffins.
Haliburton Highlands - 2023 +
The Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society (HHGBS) has tirelessly been advocating for green burial options within all four of the County’s Townships, and they’ve got a win! A hybrid at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church Cemetery is a go.
Sign-up for Haliburton updates and also, every sign-up lends a voice of support to the cause. (Names remain anonymous).Follow the Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society: FacebookAnd get in touch with Terry Moore, president of HHGBS at [email protected]
Climate Action Sarnia-Lambton (CASL) was formed in 2019 and is dedicated to exploring solutions to the global climate crisis. In addition to our climate advocacy we like to plant trees and plants for biodiversity in our county. CASL is championing a hybrid burial ground in Lambton County but would love to have a stand-alone burial ground! In the meantime, we lobby for municipalities and cemeteries to consider leaving space for a natural burial area and natural burial choices. We also like to talk to our fellow citizens about natural burial.
You can reach us at [email protected], and if you haven’t already, please sign-up with the Natural Burial Association so you help to magnify our province-wide voice.
Jenna Parascandalo advocated strongly for a natural burial ground in Hamilton. It’s a go, and now Jenna’s moved to Burlington, where she continues to champion the natural burial movement. You can reach out to her with any questions at [email protected]
Sign-up to lend your voice to the cause and get updates on natural burial grounds in Hamilton and Burlington.
Grey Highlands - a stand-alone!+
There’s an expansive privately owned property near Metcalfe Rock in Grey Highlands, where a natural burial ground could be situated within the bucolic meadowed and woodland landscape. The Municipality of Grey Highlands has approved the idea “in principle” and now Sara, the property owner, proceeds to the next level of approval with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and Grey Sable Conservation Authority.
Stay tuned for updates.
Guelph - coming in summer/fall 2023+
Woodlawn Cemetery has a natural area at the corner of the original cemetery. It’s a lovely 3 acres housing trails that wind around the mature maple trees. Currently they are working on the landscape master plan and it’s anticipated the natural burial site will open in 2023.
Stay tuned for Guelph updates. Plus, every sign-up tells municipalities throughout Ontario that there’s a growing demand for natural burial, so thanks for your support.
This group has formed a co-op non-profit, and you can become a member. Their goal is to create a natural burial ground in the Ottawa Valley, open to all. While working towards this, they are advocating for and offering education on green burial, and developing relationships with local funeral homes, cemeteries, and municipal councils.Please also register your support with NBA and sign-up here.
Peterborough, Havelock, Hastings - perhaps a stand-alone!+A Peterborough resident wrote to NBA “I consider myself to be green and always thought cremation was my preferred option. Now that I know about natural burial, that’s my choice”. She took it one step further, applying to be on her local cemetery board, and reaching out to Peterborough’s councillors and environmental groups. Now she’s joined by a local field biologist, who’s equally intent on bringing a natural burial ground to Peterborough.
Outside the town of Hastings, lies a 96 acre property, mostly pasture with a wooded area and even a bit of wetland. Apple trees, old enough to be gnarly, provide shade for the cows and horses that graze freely. The panorama is spectacular.Sign-up so we add to the votes and you stay up to date with their progress.
A nun (Sister Sharon) and a minister (Kay Heuer) and other have formed a group called Transition Town. They want to make North Bay greener — and that includes a natural burial ground. They hope for a hybrid cemetery or ideally a stand-alone natural burial ground; somewhere green where the Sisters of St. Joseph and others can depart in a way that respects the earth and returns to simpler, traditional burial practices.Kay and Sharon are collecting names of people interested in green burial so please get in touch:Kay Heuer <[email protected] or Sharon Miller -705-474-3800 x 417
Sue and Tom Omstead love spending time outdoors in nature and have tried to be as environmentally conscientious as possible throughout their lives. They hope to be able to carry that approach through to the end, and beyond, whenever that may be!
They have long been interested in natural burial and are working toward the goal of developing a natural (or as they prefer to call it, a conservation) burial park in Essex or Kent County.
Sue & Tom envision returning a local property back to its natural state (ie planting much needed trees) and allowing people who share the same concern for protecting nature to be able to choose a final resting place that is consistent with those objectives.
Bobcaygeon - a stand-alone!+
Carrie Hoskins has 180 acres of stunning forest of maple, oak, pine, cedar and spruce, and she’s in discussions with the Municipality of Trent Lakes, Curve Lake First Nations, Kawartha Land Trust, and Kawartha Conservation in the hopes that one day this can provide a final resting place where the forest will be conserved. To learn more, explore nogiesnaturalburial.com.
Northern Bruce Peninsula+
There’s an advocate near Lion’s Head liaising with the municipal cemetery, urging them to create a green area. Sign-up so we can add your voice to the growing chorus of people interested in natural burial. We’re running into obstacles because the cemetery operators say they can’t perform winter burials, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Winter burials are performed in Thunder Bay, so surely they can be performed further south!
Owen Sound +
In 2020 Owen Sound approved a natural burial area within the municipality’s Greenwood Cemetery. It’s 1/4 acre. On three sides the area shoulders the conventional burial ground, and one side sits along a lovely valley. A landscaper has been hired.
As of Jan 2021, there has been one burial, Robert Garnett. Bob loved nature and had worked to bring this burial area to fruition. While the site is unfinished, his family chose for him to be buried here, knowing that Bob would have felt honoured to be buried in a place he’d help create and which one day, will return to its natural state.
Sign-up for updates on the progress in Owen Sound, and to lend your voice to the chorus of support for natural burial grounds.
West Grey - a standalone!+
There’s a big team in West Grey hoping for municipal approval of a natural burial ground. It looks promising! Follow them on Facebook @naturalburialwestgrey.
There’s also a beautiful piece or property, over 100 acres, with horses roaming the field. The owner would like to create a natural burial ground.
Sign up for the updates and to lend your support for a natural burial ground in West Grey. We capture your postal code (don’t worry, we don’t share your name) and if there’s a need for you to write your councillor, or better still, the launch of a natural burial ground, we’ll let you know.
The Blue Mountains - a hybrid in 2023+
Led by the Climate Action Now Network of The Blue Mountains, council approved 7 – 0 the creation of a natural burial ground within the Thornbury Clarksburg Union Cemetery. Here’s an article that tells it all! The Review – June
Sign up for updates and to add your voice to those who’d like to see a natural burial ground in their community.
St. Joseph Island - a stand-alone!+
Within 14 acres of private property in the middle of St. Joseph Island, is ten acres of predominately maple hardwood forest. Much of the ground is hilly and rough, but there are a few acres that are fairly level and would make a wonderful natural burial ground.
Sign up for updates!
Grand River - a stand-alone!+
Near Grand Valley, abutting Luther Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is 103 acres of land that has been organic for over forty years. The dream is to locate the natural cemetery at the back of the farm next to the conservation land, thereby extending the naturally conserved land.
Sign up for updates!
Mount Hamilton Cemetery plans to open a 8400 sq metre natural burial section. Over time the area will be planted with natural vegetation, returning it to its natural ecosystem. In place of individual markers, there will be a communal marker. There’s some information here.
Sign up for our e-news and we’ll let you know when Hamilton opens.
Earthbound Coffins, Lanark County+
Locally made, all natural coffins made by a small family run business. Their values of simplicity and sustainability embody the craftsmanship in each coffin made by Earthbound Coffins. Stroke them and they’re smooth as a baby’s bottom, smell them and you’ll be transported to a forest.