Natural Burial

Traditional and Cremation

Today there are more options than ever on how to celebrate a life lived. Choosing burial as your final disposition allows you to have a final resting place with options to have a personal celebration. We believe that no two people are alike and no two services should be alike either.

What is Natural “Natural” Burial?

More and more, people are looking for eco-friendly, affordable, and personally meaningful ways to do just about anything and everything. Natural burial (green burial) and the natural processes leading up to a loved ones placement in the ground mirrors, for many, the way in which they strive to live their lives – environmentally responsible and in harmony with nature. For some, natural “green” burial represents the closing of the circle between birth and death by being buried without encumbrances or impediments signaling a return to simpler practices and simpler times. One of the major reasons people are drawn to natural burial is its roots in tradition; up until a hundred years ago, everyone was buried this way. The advent of natural “green” burial allows the experience to once again be given back to the families and the deceased individual back to mother Earth. Thus, allowing for a realistic, hands on experience – a return to the bygone ways of times past. For many, the return to significance and simplicity has resulted in accelerated emotional healing effects and positive outcomes with the grieving process. Joshua Tree Memorial Parks natural burial areas offer the promise of a more spiritual journey. A closing of the circle between life in death – natures process.


    • There is no traditional embalming. The deceased is placed in refrigeration until burial. Does not inhibit “natures process” of natural decomposition.
    • Allows for a more ecological friendly process by removing the necessity for a vault or grave liner and for the use of toxic chemicals (embalming process). No burial vaults or outside containers are used.
    • Promotes healthier working conditions for the funeral industry
    • Only biodegradable materials can be used for casketing and/or shrouding the body – which can include unfinished renewable wood, woven willow and wicker, raw cotton, or linen and even paper.
    • All of the graves are 100% hand dug. The use of heavy equipment, causing harm to the environment, is not permitted.
    • Seeks to reduce carbon emissions by offering an alternative to the cremation process. Conserves natural habitat and resources.

Why Choose Green Burial?

There are numerous reasons people may choose a natural burial, some of which may have already been addressed above. However, for those who lean toward more conventional funeral practices because they dislike the idea of a body “breaking down” in the ground, it is important to note that there is no scientific or other evidence that a sealing casket or embalming will preserve human remains. This means that sooner or later nature will take its course.


    • 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde
    • 180,544,000 pounds of steel, in caskets
    • 5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze in caskets
    • 30 million board feet of hardwoods in caskets
    • 3,272,000,000 pounds of reinforced concrete vaults and 28,000,000 pounds of steel in vaults (from Mary Woodsen, Cornell University)


In a time of dwindling resources, we could put much of that to better use. Until recently, internment in an environmentally friendly burial ground was not an option. Green burial offers the chance to be reunited with the earth and to be recycled into new life. We believe that with increasing demand, natural burial options will only continue to expand in the future.

Our Process

Joshua Tree Memorial Park’s Natural Burial sections are located in an “open desert” area on the property adjacent to our traditional burial garden sites. Graves are hand dug using shovels, pick axes, pry bars by 2-3 grounds crew members.

The digging can take anywhere from 7-10 hours depending on the hardness of the ground. The grave is dug to a 5-foot depth on average. The Green Burial Councils recommended depth is 3.5 feet. A minimum distance of 18 inches is needed to keep the body out of the “smell zone.” The distance between the deceased and the surface that makes the odor noticeable to humans or other animal species.

Grave spots measure 10’ long and 5’ wide, on average. The inner box of the grave space that is dug out measures 8’ long and 3’ wide. Before the digging is started, native plants are temporarily removed from the area.

The deceased is transported to the site in its organic casket or other container and or on a wood carrying board when the body is shrouded. The body (along with any bio-degradable receptacle) is placed on a standard lowering device for safety issues.

Once in the ground, the body is covered with a two-foot layer of dirt. Medium to large rocks are collected from the surrounding desert and a layer of these stones are added into the burial site. This is done for a variety of reasons. Firstly, to create a deterrent barrier against any local wildlife that may attempt to dig into the grave. Secondly, to create a reference point for the depth of the grave if it is ever probed to determine location. Thirdly, to add stability to the grave site. After the rock layer is added, the holes remaining open space is filled in with dirt. Any plants removed from the site are added back to location.

Traditional memorialization, such as granite or bronze grave markers and headstones, are not allowed in the natural burial sections. Families may plant a naturally occurring plant (native to the Joshua Tree area) on the site as a marking or utilize a large rock. We do allow for the rocks to have minimal decoration (subject to review).


How Do I Get Started?

Contact our offices to request a cost estimate or to arrange a consultation and/or tour of the natural burial areas. Natural burial property can be purchased in advance or at the time of need.

Joshua Tree Memorial Park does not have a mortuary division on site. Therefore, all of your funeral home arrangements will need to be made with an outside provider. Your contracted funeral director will assist you with the removal of your loved one from the location of passing, arrangement of any desired funeral services and visitation and viewing services, preparation of the deceased per green burial standards and practices we can provide to them, and securing the California disposition permit legally required for burial.

Funeral Partner Providers

In need of a funeral home with knowledge of natural “green” burial policies and practices? Here are some options:

WIEFELS (Cremation & Funeral Services)
57285 Yucca Trl., Yucca Valley, CA 92284
FD 1056 Phone: (760) 365-2301 Fax: (760) 228-1270 /

5300 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 320 Los Angeles, CA 90029
Phone: (323) 457-3335

402 W. Baseline Rd.   Glendora, CA 91740
Phone: (626) 335-0615

550 Silver Spur Rd. #230 Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 92075
Phone: (310) 684-3086

36 W. Calle Laureles Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone: (805) 569-7000





For every natural burial that is made at our Memorial Park we will donate $50 to the Mojave Desert Land Trust.

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