Visit the NATURAL END MAP to find cemeteries that offer vault free burial and have signed the Natural End Pledge. http://www.naturalendmap.com
We WANT our coffins to break down...The Natural Burial Company sells biodegradable caskets and urns suitable for liner or vault-free earth burial because they decompose over time. Our coffins last as long as you need them, and return to the soil once you don't.
However, many cemeteries require you buy vauts, grave liners or "outer burial containers" - additional boxes made of cement, plastic, or metal to store your casket in once it's buried. These liners prevent or forestall decomposition and keep your body from returning naturally to the Earth.
Grave Liners are not required by health and safety laws. Instead, these rules are private cemetery policy and may be changed.
Cemeteries began to require vaults when fuel-intensive industrial-style landscape maintenance techniques became popular. They grew dependent on tractors and heavy equipment to mow, dig and apply chemical compounds. This machinery compacts the soil and crushes graves and caskets that aren't protected by outer burial containers.
Since these containers make decomposition almost impossible, we are requesting that cemeteries begin to implement alternative landscaping techniques that lessen their dependence on mowing, or purchase lighter-weight machinery that does not compact the soil, uses less fuel, and will not cause a properly maintained natural grave to collapse.
The goal in natural burial is to fully return to the soil, not remain separated from it and vaults and liners do not work here. In sustainably managed cemeteries, heavy mowing equipment does NOT pass regularly over the grave. The biodegradable coffin collapses naturally with rain and time, as it's designed to. Natural graves sink slightly and are then filled by hand a couple of times over a period of 6-18 months until the soil is stable. When properly constructed and maintained, most natural graves stop sinking after 1-2 years.
Natural landscapes do not need constant trimming, weeding, mowing, herbiciding, pesticiding, and de-mossing in perpetuity. Because there is less money spent on natural landscaping in the long run, grave maintenance can be inexpensive AND habitat can be enhanced at the same time. And in the most progressive cemeteries that offer natural burial, bodies return completely to the earth and the grave spaces are then reused in a specified number of years, satisfying both the need to return to the earth naturally and keep the land free for future generations.
Find a Local Cemetery and ask if they permit burials without a vault or liner Once you're ready to "look for greener pastures" to plant yourself in, you may need to do a little research to find a cemetery that will provide you with a vault-free burial. But they're out there, in historic and old churchyard cemeteries, run by volunteers who would love to get more than 5 burials a year. Go introduce yourself -- pull a weed or two; think of it as one more activist adventure, and something you can work on til you die!
A lot of cemeteries - especially the old pioneer cemeteries, and those run by non-profit organizations like the Elks, the Oddfellows, the Masons, or small churches - still permit liner-free burial; that's "how it was done in the old days" and a number of them still feel they can do it today, especially when they learn that people might actually WANT them again.
Municipal cemeteries tend to be responsive to their communities, and a number of cities across the US have announced that they'll start offering natural options along with the conventional ones.
Some cemeteries convert to natural burial gradually, with wildflower areas left to grow unmowed and the elimination of vaults becoming their first steps to a low-maintenance, habitat enhancing "Living Cemetery." And, as the picture below shows, it's ok to lighten up with the lawnmower (see the back area with its wildflower covered gravestones?) - nature can take it...
Remember - "NATURAL BURIAL" begins with a biodegradable container and just gets better from there.