Natural Burials

March 1, 2016

Natural or ‘green’ burial – which requires that everything going into the grave is biodegradable – is welcome at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Since 2014 when Mount Auburn became the first cemetery in Massachusetts to be certified by the Green Burial Council, natural burial graves have been among the many burial options available to our families and clients. 


Mark Harris, environmental journalist and author of  Grave Matters – A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial, explains natural burial as:

“Green burial seeks to return one’s remains to the earth, as directly and simply as possible.  Such a natural return is little more than a return to long tradition. Much of what constitutes green burial was once standard practice in this country, the default, not the exception. The goal then and now is the same: to allow the body at death to rejoin the elements it sprang from, to use what remains of a life to regenerate new life, to return dust to dust.”  


A natural burial at Mount Auburn is placed into a grave that is approximately four feet in depth and not lined with a concrete box, sometimes referred to as a grave liner.

Most of these grave sites are located within the ‘historic core’ where they are surrounded by mature trees and monuments from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Monuments are generally not allowed with natural burials, but many of these locations allow for memorial plaques on existing trees or associated with newly planted trees and shrubs.

Each grave is given a unique number, indicated by an aluminum marker placed at the foot of the grave.

At the time of burial, a lowering device with a framework around all edges of the grave is required for safety and liability reasons. This device is removed prior to closing the grave.


Do you plan to be wrapped in a shroud or buried in a simple wooden casket? Will you be utilizing the services of a funeral director or are you planning for a home funeral?

There are many questions to consider when making plans for your own natural burial or planning the burial of a family member or a friend.  As you make your plans, we encourage you to consult our Guidelines for Natural Burial at Mount Auburn.  These guidelines were created in partnership with local funeral directors and natural death care advocates to provide flexible options for the many families we serve.

Cemetery Services Guidelines for Natural Burial at Mount Auburn

Click the image above to view the Guidelines online or contact us to request a printed copy by mail.


 Eternally Green: Mount Auburn founded on ‘Natural Burials’

Frequently Asked Questions: Natural Burial


The best way to learn about Mount Auburn’s Natural Burial options is to have a tour with a member of our Cemetery Services staff.  Contact us to schedule an appointment:

Death can seem sad and meaningless, but when connected to life, it can be so much more and that’s what green burial does. Through green burial we can utilize our end-of-life rituals for the betterment of the planet and help ensure a brighter future for the younger generations. We can come to appreciate death as an integral part of a natural process that continues long after we perish.

– Joe Sehee, Founder, Green Burial Council


  1. Maria Vaporis says:

    Hello. My husband and I are interested in receiving in print or via web more information regarding your natural burial options.

    Thank you.

  2. Pingback: greenburialnaturally

  3. Mary Gilbert says:

    I am interested in having a natural burial. I want to know the very minimum that I would be permitted to have between my body and the soil that it will become part of. Please send information to:

    Mary Gilbert

    • Candace Currie says:

      Thanks for requesting information Mary. There are two parts to your question, I think.

      First is the depth of the burial: Natural burials are what Mount Auburn refers to as ‘single-depth’ burials, which means there’ll be only one person per grave space with approximately 3.5′ of soil between the body and the top of the ground where turf or some other type of groundcover will be growing.

      Second part refers to the container/casket/shroud in which a body is placed: If you are buried in a shroud, an allowable option at Mount Auburn, then the material of the shroud is the only thing that comes between the body and the soil. If you’re in a casket, then the body is separated by the wood and farther from the soil, but this option too, will break down over time and allow the body to return to the earth.

      I hope this answers your question, and sorry for the delay in response.


  4. Mary Ned Nyberg Fotis says:

    My husband and I are interested in receiving in print or via web more information regarding your natural burial options.

  5. Paula Chevalier says:

    Hi I had a couple of questions regarding a natural/green burial my first is do I have to live in Mass to be buried there I live in northeastern CT not that far from Mass there aren’t many and my other question what is the cost of the plot and do you allow all natural caskets I’ve seen a lot of bamboo and other natural/ green material made caskets.


    Paula Chevalier

    • Bree Harvey says:

      Dear Paula, thank you for your questions about our Natural Burial program. First, Mount Auburn does not have any restrictions based on residency, so it is completely fine that you are a Connecticut resident. In answer to your other question, Mount Auburn’s natural burial graves allow for the use of cloth shrouds, wicker or bamboo caskets, papier mache pods, simple pine caskets, and other containers made of natural materials. Finally, we will follow up with you via email to provide you with more specific information about our current natural burial options (including pricing).

      Thank you, again, for your interest in Natural Burials at Mount Auburn.

  6. Gerry Vann says:

    I’m investigating natural burial as future option. Are there local, Boston area, funeral homes that Mt Auburn has worked with that are able to facilitate a natural burial? Otherwise, are there any resources that you can share that will help me find a qualified funeral home for a natural burial?

    • Jennifer Johnston says:

      Hi Kit, Someone will be in touch with you during the business week. Thank you for your interest in Mount Auburn Cemetery and in Green Burials.

  7. Dana Snyder-Grant says:

    I am a member of the Town of Acton’s cemetery commission. We are just beginning to explore the option of green burial in our cemeteries. Thank you for the info on your website. Might there be a possibility for one of your staff to speak to us at a commission meeting this Spring (on second Wed of month at 2pm)?

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