Natural (Green) Burial

As people become aware of the environmental impact of both conventional burial and cremation, natural burial is becoming a choice in more and more communities. Simple in-ground burial is, in fact, not new but a return to an older way of burying our dead. Here in Canada graves are not re-used. The body interred in a natural burial cemetery nourishes the soil, feeds new growth, protects the space from development, and becomes part of a living ecosystem indefinitely.

On Quadra Island, there is an area on the south side of the community cemetery designated for natural burial. There have been four burials in this area since it became available in 2020. Each grave is marked with a biodegradable marker and covered in foliage to promote natural regrowth. In the future a memorial structure will be built; a permanent place to commemorate those buried in this area.

In a natural burial the non-embalmed body is clothed or wrapped in biodegradable material such as cotton, linen, or wool. It can then be placed in a simple biodegradable box. It is preferable that the box (optional in many natural burial cemeteries, required on Quadra) be made from locally sourced materials. The simple grave is dug shallow enough to allow for rapid natural decomposition, but deep enough so the body will not be disturbed by wildlife.

The simplicity of a natural burial encourages (but does not require) the participation of family members and friends who can prepare the body, build the box, transport it to the cemetery, and lower it into the grave. This can be a very personal and low-cost alternative to conventional practices. Community-led death care volunteers can guide and support families who wish this. See for more information.

The first urban green burial site in Canada opened in Victoria in 2008, as part of the Royal Oak Burial Park. The Denman Island Natural Burial Cemetery, opened in 2015, was Canada’s first exclusively green cemetery. Campbell River, Cortes, Cumberland, Parksville, Salt Spring, and Victoria are neighbouring communities which offer both conventional and natural burial.

The Quadra Island Cemetery Society volunteers maintain the cemetery and manage the burials for our community. Contact information for them can be found in the Quadra Phone book on page 78. The cemetery is available to Quadra residents past and present and, thanks to the many volunteers who have been involved with the cemetery for over 100 years, the plots are affordable. They can be purchased in advance of a death.

More information about natural burial can be found at

“I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly …” Mary Oliver

Written by Margaret Verschuur