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What is the difference between a natural burial ground and a cemetery?

Posted by Tracey Gelder on
natural burial ground from above

When the time comes to say goodbye to much loved friend or family member, one of the key decisions that needs to be made – if that person hasn’t already made their wishes known in advance – is where their final resting place will be.

One increasingly common and popular choice is to use a natural burial ground rather than a traditional cemetery. If you’re not sure what the difference is, or why a natural burial ground represents the best option for those concerned with the environment and the state of the planet, this article will tell you everything you need to know!

What is a natural burial ground?

Whether you want a full burial or an ashes interment, a natural burial ground means it can be carried out so that it not only doesn’t harm the environment but can actually be of immense benefit to it. That’s because it can help attract wildlife, encourage plants and trees, and boost biodiversity.

How does it do that?

  • Using only biodegradable materials in any coffins, urns or shrouds
  • Eliminating burial processes such as embalming that involve damaging chemicals
  • Planting trees and wildflowers

At Tithe Green Natural Burial, we currently have two sites in the East Midlands: Oxton burial ground in Nottinghamshire and Ketton burial ground in Rutland. We know that people enjoy returning to them time and time again, not only to remember lost friends or family but also just to enjoy spending time in such beautiful places.

natural burial ground from birds eye view

How does a natural burial ground differ from a traditional cemetery?


A traditional cemetery will either be attached to a church or be a dedicated site with rows and rows of graves arranged over a large area. In some cases, they are very ordered and impersonal places, making them unwelcoming for spending any substantial time in.

In others, as graves become neglected over the years, headstones fall and break, and weeds grow everywhere, they can become difficult to negotiate and gloomy or even intimidating places to visit.

A natural burial ground, on the other hand, will usually be in an attractive rural location with wildflower plants and native trees flourishing, in turn attracting bees, birds and other wildlife. At the sites managed by Tithe Green Natural Burial in Oxton and Ketton, individual resting places are marked by simple slate plaques, so that people are commemorated without overwhelming the area or dominating the landscape with headstones.

Quite simply, a natural burial ground will generally be a far more pleasant, enjoyable and welcoming place to spend time than just about any traditional cemetery.

Environmental benefits

Because only biodegradable materials are being used and there are none of the chemicals associated with certain standard practices, a natural burial allows a body to be incorporated back into the soil in as non-toxic a way as possible. Meanwhile, the trees and plants benefit the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide, helping to reduce the levels of climate changing gases in the air.

Studies show that traditional burials are the worst climate offenders, emitting roughly 3.6 times as much CO2 as a cremation – a natural burial, on the other hand, is often climate positive, doing more good than it does harm.

The result is a site that can be enjoyed as much as any beautiful country setting, whether you’re there to remember someone or just to enjoy the views and tranquillity. 

With hundreds or even thousands of large upright monuments, concrete paths and roads, and coffins and urns made using materials that can take hundreds of years to degrade, a traditional cemetery is not only bad for the environment, but it also has no other purpose. 

We explored five reasons why a natural burial is better for the environment in this previous article.


There are a lot of traditions associated with standard burials and interments, and most of them come at a cost – and not just to the environment! 

Natural burials tend to eschew such elements, partly out of necessity – because they don’t meet the required environmental benchmarks – but also because the people who choose them tend to prefer the plainer approach. A simpler ceremony doesn’t mean that it will be less respectful or lack meaning – it’s just that there’s a different emphasis in the way it is conducted.

The idea that a natural burial will be more expensive than a traditional funeral is one of the five myths about green burials that we explored in this earlier blog. Figures show that the average cost of traditional burial in the UK is £2,200, while our burial fees start at £1,675.

Here at Tithe Green Natural Burial, we’re proud to offer affordable and eco-friendly burials and interments at our sites at Oxton and Ketton in the East Midlands.

You can find out more about what we offer, discover how we support the local environment and book your own natural burial or ashes interment by getting in touch with us today.

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