How are green burials different?

How are green burials different?

Life & Death Matters Post
Woodlands Green Burial Site at Royal Oak Burial Park, Victoria BC, Designed by Lees and Associates. Images from Lees and Associates

One topic that really intrigues me is green burials. The  “Green Burial Council” (North America) defines a green burial as one that

furthers legitimate environmental aims such as protecting worker health, reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources, and preserving habitat.

I figured it was time for a field trip to check out the green burials in Victoria.

I visited the Green Burial Site at Royal Oak Burial Park  in Victoria BC. My impressions? The site was smaller than I imagined, surprisingly simple and natural in appearance – without the manicured look of a conventional cemetery. Their site is bordered by gardens and second growth forest. Lawn and gravel paths lead to a few native trees and plants in a centre garden.

The forest at the edge, burial sites in the garden, grass bordering on the edge

So where were the burial sites? Stephen Olson, the director, explained to me that the “gardens” mulched with leaves were burial sites.


As the gardens filled with burial sites, the grass and gravel pathways would become burial sites as well. Eventually the entire area would be burial sites underground, with a native forest above. A path would wind through, linking six large local stone boulders engraved with the names of those who have been buried in the site. From a distance the green burial site will be a continuation of the forest that is already there. Stephen commented a few times that “Green Burial” is not a new invention, but rather a new discovery of an old practice.

Tell me – What are your thoughts on green burials?  Is this something you would embrace?   What else would you want to know?

Learn about Green Burials in "Death and Dying in the 21st Century
Family assisting with the burial



Stephen also opened a very interesting topic, relating stories of families that gathered and participated fully in the process and ritual of burial – a very different experience in comparsion to conventional funerals and burials.

We’ll talk more about this in the “Death and Dying in the 21st Century” online course.

6 Responses

  1. It’s very different to what we’re used to but I think I like it and would like to explore it more. We’re sad to be burying a niece on Monday in Cardston. Car accident at 22 – much too young.

    1. Diana,
      Sorry to hear of the sudden death of your niece. Death for a young person always seems too soon, but a sudden death seems even more tragic. I wonder how your family is coping.
      Teresa Rando has provided some good information on suddent death, perhaps because she herself has experienced a number of sudden deaths. She describes that experience so poignantly. She suggests that it is like being hit by a truck from behind… you do not have time to brace yourself, you do not see it coming.
      Take care as you grieve, and as you support your family in their grief.

    1. Cassandra,
      Thanks for your posting. The work of deathmidwifery and death doulas is fascinating as well. Let’s talk!
      I look forward to reading about your work.

  2. I am really interested in the green burial site at Royal Oaks. Definitely will look into it further. Seems so much gentler to our future use of land resources.

    1. Penny, You may enjoy a tour by Stephen Olson. HE is a great fellow, and can give you the history of the site. Interesting, your use of the word “gentle”. A good descriptor. Think, if this generation was to leave forests, hiking trails for the next generation to enjoy. Hm…..

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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