About Green Burial

Doesn't the law require embalming and a coffin?

No. Washington state law requires neither, but does require that a body be cremated or interred within 3 days of death. If buried, a “dignified covering” must be used, which includes things like quilts, shrouds, baskets, or simple caskets.

Won't animals try to dig up bodies in a natural cemetery?

Natural graves are approximately 3.5 feet deep.  24 inches of soil is enough to provide a smell barrier, such that the body is not noticeable to animals traveling above.

Won't bodies pollute the water table?

At only 3.5 feet deep, there is no danger of affecting the water table, which is typically a good 70 feet below that.  There are also setback requirements from other bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes, for the same reason.

Do drugs or diseases in the body pose an environmental or health risk?

Soil creates a natural filter and binds to organic chemicals, keeping them in place, and microorganisms break these chemicals down further.  Natural burial is also a sufficient barrier for disease.

How long does a body take to decompose?

Much of the data regarding decomposition came from experiments on bodies in open air.  In that setting, a body is reduced to skeletal remains within 65 days.  It is estimated that interring a body slows the process down, and likely takes about 4 times longer.  If the body embalmed and placed within a vacuum-sealed casket, the process takes even longer.

Is natural burial cheaper than traditional burial?

Some costs associated with natural burial are much less than traditional burial–there are no expensive caskets or embalming, for example.  Because natural burial plots are typically larger than regular plots, however, the total cost ends up being about the same.

Aren't you worried about graves caving in?

Natural burial sites are mounded to allow for some settling of soil over time.  Because natural burial grounds are typically maintained with native vegetation rather than green lawns, minor variations in surface level are not cause for concern.  Additional soil can be added to the grave, especially during the first year or two after burial, as the ground stabilizes.

About the Cascades Natural Burial Ground

The regulations for the burial ground we intend to create in the Methow Valley have not yet been created.
Answers provided here are based on what we expect, but are not guaranteed.

How are graves marked?

Plot corners are recorded via GPS. Individual markers may include anything from nothing at all to native plantings to a small natural stone with an engraved name.

How big is a burial plot?

Natural burial plots are typically larger than standard burial plots, and are about about 15-20 feet per side.

Do burial plots get re-used?

At this time there are no plans for re-using burial plots, but it is something to consider as our population increases and available land dwindles.

How do you bury people in winter?

Other natural cemeteries will typically dig graves to be held in reserve for winter, covering them to keep them snow-free.  Because of this, a person who dies in winter may end up being interred in a different plot than the one they originally purchased.

Can I be buried with my loved one? How about my pet?

Although you may be buried alongside a loved one, Washington law requires that animal remains be kept separate from human remains.  Some natural burial grounds circumvent this by burying pets along the perimeter of the property.  Those who wish to be interred near their pets can purchase a plot along the edge of the burial ground.  We will likely adopt a similar policy.

What if I want to be cremated? Can I be scattered at a natural burial ground?

Yes, most natural burial grounds allow for this practice.

How many people will you be able to bury there?

This number will vary depending on the terrain, and will probably range from 50 – 200 people per acre.  We hope to conserve at least 20 acres.

About Cascades Natural Burial

Why start your own cemetery? Why not just make a natural burial corner of an existing cemetery?

Both Beaver Creek and Sullivan Cemeteries have prohibited natural burial there, and the other natural burial grounds in Washington are several hours away.

Are there other natural burial grounds in Washington?

There are currently 6 areas in Washington state that allow for natural burials.  Four are associated with traditional cemeteries, while the other two are dedicated solely to natural burials.

Can't I just be buried on my own land?

In Washington state, unfortunately the answer is no.  Washington is one of only a few states that does not allow burial on private land.

How much money will you need to fund the cemetery?

We will need to acquire 20 or more acres of land in the Methow Valley, pay the fees associated with incorporating as a cemetery, and create a fund to provide for the future maintenance and operation of the burial ground.  Our initial goal is $500,000 to meet these needs.

If I donate to you, is it tax-deductible?

We are in the process of partnering with or establishing a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so donations of either money or land would be tax-deductible.

How can I be part of your organization?