Eco-burials: burying our dead, uniting our families, preserving our open space

I met some months ago Nigel Lowthrop, a British social entrepreneur, who started Hill Holt Wood with his wife.  It’s a fascinating story.  Hill Holt Wood is basically a way to make sure that environmental land in England can sustain itself; They bought beautiful rural land in Lincolnshire, and then developed on the site a school that helps turn around kids at risk.  It both keeps kids-at-risk from falling through the educational system, and also financed the 34 acre woods that they have now turned back over to the town. (There is much less undeveloped land in England than in the U.S.)

One of his latest ideas is to purchase a really large parkland and enable families to have eco-burials (the body wrapped in a shroud that decomposes); families would plant tree seedlings on the burial site instead of having tombstones. The idea is that the body relatively quickly decomposes, but the tree grows. People are buried with computer chips in them, so one can tell who is/was buried where by scanning the earth. Future family members can be buried around that *family tree*. They envision that the family trees might be places for future family gatherings honoring their ancestors. And each family only gets a space for 150 or 200 years, at which point the wood is harvested and turned into high quality furniture that family members can buy. And the park becomes a place that anyone can use for their enjoyment. It’s a really cool idea.  It is really well thought out, long-term vision for how to sustain honoring the dead, not use up too much cemetery space, provide a center for future family get-togethers (i.e. social capital) and reunions and produce wonderful environmental space for others to enjoy.


2 responses to “Eco-burials: burying our dead, uniting our families, preserving our open space

  1. Nigel is a really inspiring social entrepreneur who remains (suitably) down-to-earth and pragmatic about it all.

    Just on the death stuff, the Natural Death Centre run an Association of Natural Burial Grounds (of which there are well over 200 of the type you describe in the UK), so not a new idea, but certainly one worth replicating. The NDC is also a great charity worthy of support.


  2. I plan to make my own ‘papier-mashee’ coffin, with old newspaper and natural glues, Casein (milk protein) glues are splendid in woodworking, making cardboard articles, then paint it in bright festive colours.

    Bravo! Nigel, a great enterprise.

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