BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (2022)

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (1)

Yes, The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide Second Edition is available in print. Thanks to the vagaries of doing business during a pandemic this took much longer than hoped, but there’s now a good supply of newly printed books waiting to go out to you.

When I embarked on the project that became my original The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide seven years ago I saw it as a way to help people in the Northeast where I live find a green burial cemetery to bury their dead. It morphed out of a general book about green burial, a subject which fascinated me ever since I stumbled on the term while researching plastics recycling. The amount of time needed to track down, contact, and get details of cemeteries for that book convinced me to assemble my findings into a guide. The project went from a slim digital guide for 24 cemeteries to today’s second edition, 407 pages and covering over 160 cemeteries with indepth reporting and details, and lots of photographs that help give a feel for how individual these places are.

I received numerous requests for a print edition, and once produced, I remembered what it’s like to be able to thumb through a guide rather than laboriously do it digitally. It’s also something I can keep in the car (though I have to remember to do so). The printed second edition is available only for the complete guide. Four second edition regional guides, Northeast, South, Midwest and West, are available only in digital. All guides have an introduction to green burial, interactive tables of contents, revised maps and lists of funeral homes that work with green burial customers. For those who like both the ease of digital and the feel of print, I offer a bundle version. All digital edition purchases include free updates until September 2022 to help keep you current on the expanding world of green burial. All versions of the guide are available for purchase at


Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (2)

When I decided last August to publish a second edition of The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide I knew it would involve tons of work but I really expected to have it ready before now. In some ways the pandemic helped me focus on chores that needed doing before publication but it also created an underlying anxiety that we all may feel scattering our thoughts and our focus.

But it is here now. Expanded with 30 new cemeteries (a couple dozen more out there decided they were too small to want the attention or were impossible to contact) and updated information on the existing cemeteries. I’ve added more photos, many from the cemeteries themselves, and redesigned maps and tinkered with the layout. You’ll find that state maps now list their cemeteries and the complete guide has a table of contents for the whole book.

As before, The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide Second Edition is available for purchase on my website, as a complete guide and in four regions, Northeast, South, Midwest and West in digital (PDF) format. A print version of the complete guide is on order, and if you visit the purchase page you can send me an email requesting notification of its arrival. I will once again offer a digital/print bundle.

Thanks, and I hope to hear your thoughts on the second edition.

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (3)

Dr. Karen Wyatt of End of Life University interviewed Lucinda Herring, home funeral guide, green burial consultant and licensed funeral director in the state of Washington for her latest podcast, “Reimagining Death During the CovId-19 Pandemic.”

EOLU PODCAST Reimagining Death During the CovId-19 Pandemic

In honor of the release of Lucinda Herring’s audiobook of Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials, Lucinda and Karen felt it would be useful for listeners to hear how home vigils and green burials might offer ways to re-imagine situations families are finding themselves in during this pandemic time. How can we change our way of looking at having to keep a loved one’s body at home longer because of funeral home overwhelm - and see it as a gift, rather than an added stress? Could choosing a green burial offer ways to remain more involved with burying a loved one during this lockdown time?

Join Dr. Wyatt and Lucinda for a rich conversation about the gifts of weaving death into life, especially now when we are all faced with so much death and loss together.

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

NEW YORK (AP) — The request, posted on an online neighborhood forum by a Brooklyn funeral director, was simple but heartfelt. A 91-year-old woman had died from the coronavirus. Her family was scattered in other states. Would anyone like to contribute items for her funeral, like flowers?

So came the call from Amy Cunningham for help in this time of crisis to give a meaningful service for someone who had died in a Manhattan assisted living facility. The request, as the AP story describes, quickly brought offers from Amy’s neighbors of flowers (not available from shuttered florists but growing in backyards) and sewn tributes to decorate an eco-friendly casket to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Amy Cunningham owns Fitting Tribute Funeral Services, a progressive funeral home dedicated to helping New Yorkers of all creeds and faiths plan affordable end-of-life experiences and green burials both upstate and within the New York City area. Like her colleagues, Amy has been thrust to the frontlines by the coronavirus and continues to work under conditions which have made an oft-maligned profession even harder and more dangerous for those who continue to help us all.

Click the link below to open up the article by Julie Walker and photo essay by John Minchillo.

Brooklyn Neighborhood Comes Together to Bury a Stranger

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (4)

See more about Amy Cunningham’s work at Fitting Tribute Funeral Services

For information on the eco-friendly casket used for burial visit Natural Legacy

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

The Green Burial Council has added a page to its website about green burial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though one of the main tenets of green burial, that family and friends have the opportunity to be intimately involved, has sadly been curtailed by the need to social distance, the process of green burial can still go on.

Just like maintaining social distance in the grocery store or pharmacy helps protect the frontline store workers, stipulating a green burial which doesn’t require morticians to handle bodies for embalming can help protect funeral workers, who are also on the frontlines.

According to the council’s website:

"The CDC states that decedents with COVID-19 may be buried or cremated according to the family's preference." National Funeral Directors Association

"There is currently no known risk associatedwith being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19."

Centers for Disease Control

As always, if you are in need of services check with your chosen green burial cemetery about its policies.

Be safe and we will come out of this together.

See the Green Burial Council website for more information:

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (5)

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (6)

Does one more hybrid cemetery mean much? I’ve visited more hybrids than either natural or conservation, and for the same reason that they are good for the green burial movement: they are relatively easy to set up and there are more of them: of the 142 cemeteries listed in The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide, 86 are hybrids.

Hybrids aren’t as “sexy” as conservation burial grounds, but when done well and cared for they offer people green afterdeath options do alot to change the conversation if people are willing to look at them with an open mind and not an all-or-none approach.

Rosemont Cemetery, a non-profit historic burial ground with graves dating from 1729, is in central New Jersey not far from the Delaware River, where the rolling land is still farmed and quaint river towns compete with farm-market towns to charm visitors. We drove down on a grey drizzly Friday, stopping for lunch in Stockton, where a bridge over the river connects Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The town was very quiet, in pre-weekend mode, but we found a pizza place that opened on Fridays for lunch and fueled up alongside a handful of locals before heading out on winding roads (probably better navigated by horse and buggy and farm equipment) to find Rosemont.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (7)

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (8)

In spite of its fancy name, Rosemont Memorial Garden and Natural Burial Area is really just a grassy corner of the cemetery, beyond the conventional graves.

It’s bordered in back by a brambled creek and a the edge of the cemetery’s undeveloped land, which gives a long view to neighboring farm buildings. Since its opening only a few bodies have been buried around the central garden and rocks.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (9)

But after the time spent on the river, and the very nature of this area of my home state, so different from my suburban region, I realize that place is an important part of green burial. You’re not being buried in an anonymous mahogany box in an anonymous conventional cemetery, you are buried in a natural landscape. To those for whom this rolling farmland near the Delaware River evokes a visceral response, like me and the Maine coast, there would be a deep physical meaning in being buried in it, in becoming part of the earth here.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (10)

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (11)

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (12)

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (13)

I’m standing over my father’s grave at Steelmantown Cemetery with my brother and my father’s grandchildren. We’re smiling. Should we be? This is a place of death. It’s also a place of natural burial, where new graves soon blend in with the forest floor (can you tell what is new ground cover here?) and the bodies they hold become part of the web of life. We’re probably stepping on leaves that contain my father’s molecules.

Yuck? No. Good.

Green burial is also about bringing family and friends into a closer circle of intimacy with dead loved ones. We have a complex relationship with death that can be unravelled and simplified if we wish.

The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide is a project I began in 2015, continued with publication in early 2017, and added to with a print edition later that year. I’ve made updates to the digital editions and now in 2019 with more cemeteries offering green burial and burial numbers at existing grounds continuing to rise, I’ve begun an arduous update process.

If you want to learn more about natural burial there’s no better way than through the cemeteries that offer it. The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide is a good place to start.

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (14)

This past August marked two years since my father's death and his natural burial at Steelmantown Cemetery. I was never comfortable with deciding on a stone to define his grave; sometimes resentful that the decision was being left to me, other times ambiguous about the wisdom of marking the spot at all. It would have been easier if I’d known his wishes but the question never came up before his death.

Then my brother and my niece and nephew came in from Texas wanting to visit the cemetery, full of enthusiasm. Kate missed the funeral and for the others, it was an opportunity to pay respects again. We drove down to south Jersey on a cool, cloudy day, very different from the intense heat of that other August. We've had a very wet summer and the woods look and sound different this time.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (15)

I love the moss-covered paths at Steelmantown;the moss is like something laid by leprechauns or wood fairies, intensely green especially in cloudy light, and soft to the touch. My niece and nephew were enchanted, too.

But the woods and winding moss-covered paths effectively hid my father's grave. Last year Tom and I set a small rock on as a place-holder. It was a distinctive stone--brick shaped and sized out of a creamy material. But the S-curves of trail all look alike.Ed keeps a book with the exact positions of graves but he wasn't there. Could the blueberry plants have grown enough, the leaf mould piled high enough, to hide the stone? Finally I realized that the Disney-effect of the curves made the place seem larger, and I had to head farther into the cemetery.

"Found it!" I yelled.

"Are you sure?"

"Yep." Luckily I had a phone photo to prove it; here's the curve in that tree, there's the two trunks across the path. This is it!

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (16)

Kate had no idea what to expect, and it's fun to watch someone come to green burial for the first time. The mounded plots along the paths, the uncut stones marking chosen but unfilled graves, the birds flitting in the oaks, didn't jibe with her ideas of a cemetery. For her grandfather though, she realized, it was a good fit.

Did we really almost lose his grave though? This time I agreed that a more definitive marker is necessary.Ed Bixby's assistants pile stones at the entrance to the cemetery paths, rocks dug up during trail making and grave digging, that can be used by families as grave markers. They fit the definition of "natural field stone" permitted by Steelmantown.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (17)

We chose a largish brownish stone already colonized by light-green lichen, and James wheeled it back to the grave in a wheelbarrow. Kate and James wanted it to stand up, but I think the forest will bring it down in the not too distant future.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (18)

We piled little stones on top and patted it.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (19)

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (20)

"So what do you want to say on the stone?" I asked as we walked back toward the cemetery guide, for this is the number one question that kept me from finishing the marker. Choosing a stone is, well,kind of random. But setting words to it is public.

"How about Pa,engineer, father, grandfather, painter, husband," said Kate.

"How about Ed Hoffner, a pretty good man?"

Too many words!

"I'd be happy if it just said, 'Edward "Pa" Hoffner'," James admitted.

As for me, I like the lichen, and the fact that when the particles that made up my father's body are finally all scattered to the forest the unengraved stone would look like it had always been there.

I gave them the contact information for Ed's stone engraver. As of yet they haven't done anything about adding words. We do, however, have a gravestone.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (21)

And the photographer gets photographed on the boardwalk at Ocean City (New Jersey!) after the cemetery trip.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (22)

Ann Hoffner

Ann Hoffner

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (23)

It was a double pleasure to head off to Nyack, New York on a sunny August afternoon; first, I would be able to attend my third Death Cafe, and second I would visit Dying To Bloom, Kerry Potter-Kotecki's "Natural Burial Boutique," the only shop I know of that offers the chance to browse through and purchase objects of use or interest around green burial.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (24)

I met Kerry at the National Home Funeral Alliance conference last September, where any image I had of a burial shopkeeper was pleasantly turned out. The common thread between us, as between everyone who reads this blog,is our interest in green burial and green funerals.We already knew each other through social media, and Kerry carries copies of The Natural Burial Cemetery Guideon her shop shelves. In her element she shone.Her success was obvious in the number of guests--two dozen men and women crowded her picturesque shop to talk death--and in the media representatives on hand. Members of WRCR AM radio,a representative from Oprah, and a summer intern for Science Friday came to gather ideas for stories and to support Kerry.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (25)

Kerry opened her shop "because I am passionate about supporting Green Burial. We need to take an objective view of our current practices and consider what is best for our environment and our soul.To me the answer is simple - return to nature.

"The name Dying To Bloom started with a radio show I hosted to promote conversations about death and funeral/burial choices.Its dual meaning is literally dying to bloom as in natural burial, and as a symbol for taking advantage of the opportunities you have in life and to blossom before you die."

Kerry grew up in Rockland County, a triangular-shaped designation that borders New Jersey and a long stretch of the Hudson.Nyack is on the western bank of the river, near the Tappan Zee Bridge. I know more about the eastern side of the bridge, which is where Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has Riverview Natural Burial Grounds. Nyack is built on the cliffs that line the western bank.

"On a local level my shop just had to be in Nyack. it's an artsy, open-minded town with a creative vibe.There are artist studios, yoga studios, cafes, theaters and now a Natural Burial Boutique."

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (26)

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (27)

Sooo--why a Death Cafe? As says, "At a Death Cafe people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives."

"I was actually slightly hesitant about holding my first Death Cafe because I did not want to frighten people away from my business.Ironically that is also why I decided I should host Death Cafes--they were started to alleviate fear and unease in discussions on death. So far each meeting has been unique, respectful and inspiring!"

This was the seventh Death Cafe at Dying To Bloom and most people came wanting to talk about death in the crowded circle around caskets and candles. Each Death Cafe takes on the spirit and meaning of the people who happen to gather for that particular day, and a number of cancer survivors set an urgent, determined tone to the need to address after death care. Coupled with that were several young women whose eagerness wasn't colored by sadness. One of the questions that came up was how to get young people interested in natural burial, not always easy to do.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (28)

Kerry's commitment to green burial goes beyond her shop to dreams of finding land in Rockland County for a green burial cemetery.She opened the Green Cemetery Fund through the Rockland Community Foundation to collect tax deductible donations."Rockland has a large senior population.We are only 40 minutes from Manhattan and a cemetery here could serve the Tri-State area."

On Kerry's counter, presided over by friends and family, including her daughter,sits a box inviting people to contribute to her dream. If you are interested in helping, go to Green Cemetery Fund is listed there.

BLOG — Green Burial Naturally (29)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Barbera Armstrong

Last Updated: 12/05/2022

Views: 6284

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Barbera Armstrong

Birthday: 1992-09-12

Address: Suite 993 99852 Daugherty Causeway, Ritchiehaven, VT 49630

Phone: +5026838435397

Job: National Engineer

Hobby: Listening to music, Board games, Photography, Ice skating, LARPing, Kite flying, Rugby

Introduction: My name is Barbera Armstrong, I am a lovely, delightful, cooperative, funny, enchanting, vivacious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.