white-tailed deer perhaps in a green burial ground

Green burial grounds in Ontario

Green or natural burial grounds are found either attached to conventional cemeteries (“hybrids”) or as acres of nature in the countryside (“stand-alones”).  There aren’t any stand-alones in Ontario yet (we’re working on it), but there are four hybrids that are our favourites because they truly follow the tenets of natural burial grounds.

Willow`s Rest

Willow`s Rest

Niagara Falls

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.

Parkview Cemetery

Parkview Cemetery

Waterloo

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

Union Cemetery

Cobourg

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.

Glenwood Cemetery

Glenwood Cemetery

Picton

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 quarter-acre of green cemetery to offer the community a final resting place among the trees and a simpler, greener burial. Names of the deceased are etched in bronze plaques attached to a large boulder. What is unique about this natural burial site is that burials occur in a forest. Great attention is paid so  the tree roots are not disturbed.

Sites in the works

There’s a ground swelling of demand for natural burial grounds, and across Ontario people are taking up the cause. Some are advocating for a municipal cemetery to create a natural burial section, others have private property they hope to re-zone for use as a cemetery, and others are interested in forming a co-op and finding land. If you don’t see your community listed below, maybe you’d like to lead the charge in your community?

  • Kingston+

    There’s a team of advocates in Kingston working hard to bring a natural burial ground to the area. They are pursuing both a hybrid and a stand-alone natural burial ground. Their progress has been amazing. The city of Kingston passed a motion to look into natural burial grounds as an opportunity to fulfil their mandate to be a sustainable city.

    Follow Green Burial Kingston on facebook or visit their website and sign-up with NBA so we can add your voice to the growing interest in natural burial.

  • Perth+

    There’s something underway but we can’t divulge the details yet! We’ll elaborate on this page when we can and call on your help if we need to make noise. 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+

    St. Stephen’s Anglican Church Cemetery was going to open a natural burial ground in 2021, but then it was delayed– just temporarily we hope. The Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society (HHGBS) is advocating for green burial options within all four of the County’s Townships.

    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:   Facebook
    And get in touch with Terry Moore, president of HHGBS at tmoore7031@gmail.com

  • Hamilton - coming 2021/2022 and Burlington+

    Mount Hamilton Cemetery has approved a 8,400 sq metre section of natural burial area, and they hope to open in 2021/22. Jenna Parascandalo has advocated for this for some time. You can reach out to her with any questions at  jparascandalo@gmail.com. 

    Now that Hamilton is a go, Jenna is championing the effort in Burlington. Go Jenna!

    Sign-up to lend your voice to the cause and get updates on natural burial grounds in Hamilton and Burlington.

  • Grey Highlands+

    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 2022+

    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 2022.

    Stay tuned for Guelph updates. Plus, every sign-up tells municipalities throughout Ontario that there’s a growing demand for natural burial.

     

  • Ottawa Valley+

    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.

    Visit greenburialottawavalley.ca  and get in touch via voicemail at 613-757-3108 x 240 or by email at info@greenburialottawavalley.ca

    Please also register your support with NBA and sign-up here.

  • Peterborough+

    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.  Sign-up so you stay up to date with their progress and express your interest.

  • North Bay+

    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 exit 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 <kayheuer@gmail.com or Sharon Miller -705-474-3800 x 417

  • Chatham-Kent/Essex Counties+

    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 have recently started discussing with some other interested parties the idea of acquiring land near Wheatley ON and opening a natural (or as they prefer to call it, a conservation) burial park that’s beside land that’s already protected for nature.

    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.

    If you’re interested in the project please contact Sue and Tom at omstead@telus.net and  sign up for NBA’s updates.

  • Bobcaygeon+

    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 they say they can’t perform winter burials, but if they can perform them in Thunder Bay they should be able to perform them here.

     

  • Sibbald Point, Lake Simcoe+

    Stephen Leacock, Canada’s beloved writer and humourist, is buried at the Sibbald Memorial St. George’s Anglican Church, a pioneering church and churchyard cemetery established in 1839, which lies along the shore of Lake Simcoe. Adjacent to this heritage-designated site is a small plot of untouched land. There are murmurs of this verdant acreage becoming a natural burial ground. 
     
    If these murmurs intrigues you, please sign up for updates and provide your postal code. We’ll share any good news.

  • Owen Sound -launching in 2022+

    The good news is that 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. It’s open for business…sort of. Greenwood is accepting burials but none of the landscaping has been done. It takes a true eco champion to sign up in its current state of thin grass and packed soil, but eventually it will be beautiful. There’s a Catch 22. Logistically they need some burials done in order to begin rehabilitating the land. In 2021, $10,000 has been earmarked to engage the landscape architect. In 2022 land rehabilitation begins, including planting bushes to separate the natural burial site from the conventional burial sites. A communal marker hasn’t been created yet, but it will be incorporated.

     

    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.

  • Clarington+

    The municipality’s planners have expressed interest in natural burial, and their ears perked when we told them about natural burial grounds with bee hives, hiking paths, and other ways of re-imagining a cemetery.  Would you like to see a natural burial ground near Clarington? Sign up so we capture your postal code and then tell Clarington about the demand (anonymously of course). Lots of demand ups the odds of a natural burial ground.

     

  • West Grey+

    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.

    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.

Green Products and Funeral Homes

  • 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.

  • Essentials Cremation and Burial Services, Niagara Falls+

    Krystal Riddell opened the doors of her funeral home, Essentials, in 2017.  It’s a funeral home with lots of heart, serving the Niagara region with great care. Krystal talks about the families who see the green burial poster in her office and are really interested to learn more. She works closely with Willow’s Rest, the natural burial ground at Fairview Cemetery, providing families with the opportunity to say goodbye in a way that’s gentle to the planet. NBA is grateful for all the time Krystal gives helping our organization.

  • MacCoubrey's Funeral Home, Cobourg+

    MacCoubrey Funeral Home has been working hand in hand with Union Cemetery to develop a green option for the environmentally concerned members of the public. They offer biodegradable caskets, embalming with non toxic products (most embalmers use formaldehyde) and other touches that create a greener goodbye. NBA is particularly grateful to Kris for all the time he’s taken patiently answering our many questions.