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Cemetery/earth burials in CA


Would you tell me the current status of CA regulations regarding earthen burials in private, religious cemeteries?  Are all counties required to adhere to state regulations or can they form their own?

Dear Laila,

With respect to natural earth interments (natural burial = a body buried in a biodegradable container, or none at all, without an outer burial container - OBC), all burials were like that until just a few decades back. There is no State that makes regulations prohibiting a burial without an OBC, nor requiring an OBC.

There is no evidence-backed rationale to support a statute or law requiring an OBC - it does not increase public or environmental safety and, in many cases, may actually harm it, especially long term. The science to prove that to legislative satisfaction is likely many years out, however, and so we're unlikely to see any regulations REQUIRING natural burial in particular soil conditions for some time yet.

Therefore, at this date any requirements for OBC's are part of the rules of the cemetery and can be changed by the cemetery whenever they wish.

You can find providers of natural OBC-free burials listed on various websites. Two commonly used ones are:

You can find a free natural funeral planner at
And I provide some more practical suggestions at

I encourage you to engage cemeteries in the conversation - check out some of my recommendations on my websites for getting cemeteries and funeral directors to give you what you want. If you find one that will accommodate you, be sure to encourage them to sign the Natural End Pledge and get on the map at the link above. It's free, and we'd love to grow the provider list there.

Hope this helped, and thanks for your question!

Cynthia Beal
Natural Burial Company
Cemetery Services


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Cynthia Beal


Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions like this. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters as well as natural burial, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.


Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Cemetery Association of Oregon. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and over a decade of running the Natural Burial Company, founded in 2004. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions, and I own two historic cemeteries the feature natural burial, based in Oregon.

American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

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