Launching a natural burial ground in your community
The responsibility for launching and operating a cemetery, including a natural burial ground, is momentous. The people we see successfully launch natural burial grounds are especially talented individuals. Compassion for families and for the planet might be the motivating factor to want to create a natural burial ground, but that’s not enough. You are assuming a sacred responsibility, one that exists long after we’re gone. Operationally it requires a flawless system, usually with the help of software, for the many project management tasks, involving pre-need, at-need, land stewardship, grave prep, ceremony planning, etc. You must know the laws inside out and backwards, and keep records on the location of every burial plot. Ontario is the only province with a dedicated agency that oversees deathcare – the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO). BAO requires reports on an annual basis. There’s insurance, legal issues, annual audits, perpetuity funds to oversee. We don’t mean to scare you off, but it’s important you know what lies ahead.
If we didn’t scare you off, the rewards can hardly be put into words. Attend one webinar put on by any of the trailblazers who run natural burial grounds and you will see the passion. They love their work, and are rewarded daily seeing the contribution they are making to their community, to their ecosystem, and to the families they serve. Every day is different but the positive response and the need they fulfil motivates them to address each challenge and seek out each new opportunity. They aren’t motivated by profit, but, the site must run like a business.
The cemetery can’t launch without a cemetery licenses. This documents explains the process and approvals that are required in Ontario.Developing a Natural Burial Ground
Here’s the Ontario legislation which cemeteries must follow. It’s called the Funeral, Burial and Cremations Act.
The organization that approves cemetery applications and maintains standards is the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.
Green Burial Council
The Green Burial Council is a robust organization which supports green burials across North America and beyond, offering both accreditation and education. Even though the material caters to a US audience, it’s a great resource. There are documents, conferences and peer to peer online forums and you can sign up for their e-news. In Canada, the Green Burial Society of Canada accredits natural burial grounds.
The two types of natural burial grounds: hybrids and standalones
Stand-alones are the expansive sites in the countryside, meadows or forest which truly feel at one with nature. They may be a distance from people’s community but the idea of a large swathe of protected nature is one that appeals to many. Sometimes that’s not possible. In that case, you could promote the idea of creating a hybrid (a small natural section within a conventional cemetery).Here are some tips:
- gather names of people in your community who are supportive of a natural burial ground
- reach out to the Natural Burial Association for documents that explain natural burial and can augment your pitch. We can also launch a social media campaign.
- contact your town councillor and/or urban planner and see if you can find a champion to consider creating a hybrid in a municipally owned cemetery
- contact the privately owned cemeteries in your community. The Natural Burial Association can provide you with documentation that promotes the cause.