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The Science of Natural Burial

Natural Burial is more benign to the environment – research shows

There is a lack of information available to the general public about the science of methane emissions from natural burial, but there is plenty of mis-information. Below I have pasted  a series of emails from Dr. Scott Bridgham, Professor and Director of Environmental Science Institute, University of Oregon.

“My question is about semi-anaerobic decomposition in soil, and whether the soil has the ability to process methane and make it benign before the gas gets to the surface?
I know that this cannot be a simple answer, as it will be dependent on local conditions, such as moisture and biological activity within the soil etc. 

I look forward to your reply,
Kind regards,
Yuli Somme”

“Yuli,
The simple answer is yes. Methane oxidation by methanotrophic bacteria converts methane to carbon dioxide, which is much more benign a greenhouse gas than methane.
regards, Scott”

If you would like to read Scott’s article about this research I can send you a pdf of his paper, but I warn you, it is very technical. Suffice to say that methane gas is consumed by the mirriad of micro-organisms present in the top 9″ or so of soil, making natural burial benign at whatever depth, providing it is well away from water courses.

People in the funeral industry constantly strive to find solutions to the problem of human body disposal. Cremation is a well established and very popular alternative to burial. Many people opt for cremation either for personal preference, or because they feel there is not enough room in their local cemetery.  This may be true, but the natural burial movement is growing in a very healthy way, and many farmers and landowners each year in the UK are opening new sites. So, if you have qualms about cremation, it is worth investigating where the nearest burial sites are in your locality, through your local council, or you can find lots of useful information on these links:

naturaldeath.org.uk
igreens.org.uk
Good Funeral Guide – What is a Green Funeral?