Natural Burial – Frequently Asked Questions

June 18, 2014

Q: If a green burial space for a body cannot be prepared due to practical constraints and the body must be cremated, can cremated remains within a biodegradable container be placed in a green burial plot?

A: Yes, cremated remains within a biodegradable container may be placed in a grave that has been designated for a natural body burial. Additionally, there are several other options at Mount Auburn for interring cremated remains including pouring the cremated remains directly into a shallow hole. In both of cases, the remains will not retrievable.


Q: Why does Mount Auburn require using a lowering device even for a shrouded body when the shroud has been designed with straps that allow a family to lower a body into the grave?

A: Mount Auburn needs to ensure the safety of all visitors. The sides of a grave may “give away” especially when a concrete grave liner is not being used; therefore, by using the lowering device a level of desired safety is achieved.


Q: When my loved one dies, she wants to be wrapped up and buried in her favorite quilt. Is that OK?

A: Yes, that is OK. Please inform Mount Auburn before you arrive so the lowering device can be set up with additional support, like a pine plank, for extra rigidity on the lowering device. The pine plank will end up at the bottom of the natural grave and will be buried with your mother.


Q: When my loved one dies, she wants all of us (her able-bodied adult children) to bring her to the cemetery. Is this permitted?

A: Yes, that is permitted. Family members are allowed to transport the body of a loved one to a cemetery. You can also check the Funeral Consumers Alliance website for more details including on how to fill out paperwork and exactly what paperwork is required. Also, you may contact your local board of health.


  1. Jim Gish says:

    I like the idea of a natural burial, but as someone who is keenly interested in genealogy and actively trying to track down my ancestors, I also value the ability of future generations to visit the gravesite and view a memorial. I understand that there is a bit of a contradiction here with respect to a natural burial, and so I’d like to understand the options you mention such as a plaque on a tree, which is not exactly a permanent memorial. Could you provide more details on those options, please?

  2. Jennifer Johnston says:

    Hi Jim,

    I understand the need for a memorial. I struggle personally with this contradiction too. At Mount Auburn we offer tree memorial plaques for existing trees or newly planted ones and also for benches for limited terms of 10 and 25 years. Those options may be renewed at the end of their terms. At Mount Auburn, we like to say that the landscape itself is the memorial; therefore, just coming to Mount Auburn allows one to find solace, if not that perfect touchstone of a memorial. As for genealogy, Mount Auburn has records of all of our burials and someone from the Historical Collections department can assist with gathering genealogy records. In those cases, the mystery of genealogy is uncovered through digital or paper records rather than ‘stone tablets’.

    Candace Currie, LEED Green Associate

  3. Samantha Da Silva says:

    Does one have to be a resident of Cambridge to be buried(natural or traditional burial) in Mount Auburn Cemetery?

    • Jennifer Johnston says:

      Hello Patti,

      Mount Auburn’s natural burial graves have been sized for caskets or shrouds, although it would be possible to place cremated remains in those graves. There are other lovely locations, Spruce Knoll, where cremated remains are poured directly into the earth. Additionally other areas including Birch Gardens, Beech Garden and areas around Willow Pond allow the cremated remains to be placed into the earth with or without an urn.

  4. Elizabeth Boyajian says:

    I wonder what the cost of a green burial is at Mt Auburn? My grandparents parents & aunts are all buried in one spot.

    • Jennifer Johnston says:

      Hi Elizabeth, Someone from our Cemetery Services Department will contact you to discuss green burial options. Thank you for your interest in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

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