Sustainability is at the heart of my business, so I source organic and natural materials as locally as possible. The wood for the base of the Leafcocoon eco coffin is from sustainably managed woodland here in Devon. The toggles are made from hazel wood from nearby hedgerows on Dartmoor. My wool is chosen from local farms that follow organic and welfare friendly principles.  Wool is a natural and renewable fibre: each year tonnes of fleece are shorn from millions of sheep but the wool trade is in decline with the increased use of synthetics. The manufacture of my wool felt has a low environmental impact and when its useful life is over it’s completely biodegradable and makes a good compost ingredient, thereby completing the cycle and returning to the earth.

Where Bellacouche organic wool comes from…

My wool is certified organic. Some of it comes from Fernhill Farm, Somerset and Wallon Farm, Drewsteignton.  These farms have high environmental and welfare standards, and the wool is Shetland and Jacobs.   Fernhill farm is moving their management towards mob grazing.  This mimics how animals graze in a wild landscape; keeping in a compact flock and moving quickly through the landscape.  Electric fencing is used to keep the flock moving through a 4 month rotational plan, which improves the health of the soil and the animals.  This  is farming at its best; mimicking nature whilst providing us with food and fibre; increasing natural diversity and improving the soil.

What is wool felt?

Felt is classed as a non-woven fabric. Simply put, it’s a tangled mass of fibres, traditionally wool, but these days it can be made of more-or-less any fibre, and it has multiple uses.

The two ways of making wool felt are: 1) wet felting; a hand made process requiring the application of moisture and friction to wool to cause the fibres to mat together, and 2) needle felting; either by hand or machine. Special barbed needles are used to tangle the fibres together. The Bellacouche wool felt employs the needle felting method and takes place as locally as possible.

“If you have to make a thing, you must know the background of it, the skeleton, the foundations, the actual stuff that the materials have grown out of, their connections with their natural background, their biotechnics – and then building can begin. And then the reason for making, the purpose, the human connection. All sides must be considered and known. You cannot just make.”

from Hand Weaving and Education by Ethel Mairet (Faber & Faber 1952)

Green Funerals and Sustainability

A woodland or meadow burial site offers the choice for a more individual ceremony and welcomes people irrespective of their beliefs. Burial is ecologically sound and as old as the hills!  A green burial ground can be a refuge for wildlife and also provides a meeting place in a peaceful setting for family and friends attending a burial or visiting later.

As the movement towards sustainability grows, there are new green burial sites opening all the time and many councils have also started to provide this service in both urban and rural spaces.  It should be a fundamental right to be buried (instead of cremated) and I would like to see every parish and district council move towards providing natural burial grounds.

More about Natural Burial and ‘Green’ Funerals