Frequently Asked Questions
Questions About Green Burial
I thought embalming was required by law - Why don't you allow embalming?
Embalming is not required in any state. The Federal Trade Commission requires funeral service providers to inform consumers that embalming is not required. There are ecological problems with conventional body burial, such as the potential for embalmed bodies to leach formaldehyde into the ground. Formaldehyde is regarded as a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization and is on the EPA's list of probable carcinogens.
While conventional burial separates the body from the earth, natural burials put it to good use. At Honey Creek Woodlands, the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable container. It is buried in a shallow grave -- about 3 feet deep -- where microbe-rich soil exists to efficiently break down the body naturally. Above ground, two to three feet of topsoil is mounded on top, and the grave is marked with a natural stone marker.
Will burying people without vaults and without embalming hurt water quality?
While the human body contains bacteria and viruses at death, many of these die (or become inert) within hours or days; almost all are inert within 5 years. Before any surface water is contaminated, germs must percolate through many feet of soil and rock, and then exit via a spring, a process that can take many years.
At Honey Creek Woodlands, we do not bury immediately adjacent to streams, and the density of burials is much less than for conventional cemeteries. By returning the areas to natural vegetation, we expect an improvement of adjacent waterways and greater biological diversity over time.
I thought if the body was not embalmed, the burial had to be within 24 hours - is that true?
No - You can use refrigeration or dry ice to keep the body cool and wait for 3 to 5 days to have the service. We have many people who are buried at Honey Creek Woodlands who have had the funeral 3 to 4 days after the death. There are many people who have home funerals and have vigils for 3 days just using dry ice. If you ask for help from a funeral home, and they tell you this, ask if they have a cooler or if they can use dry ice.
I understand that you require biodegradable caskets but what if I have a medical prosthesis?
While we want as little non-biodegradable material buried as possible, we think that it is not practical or ecologically important to remove all dental fillings, heart valves, hips, knees, etc. Anyone who has concerns about this can contact us for a fuller explanation.
Will natural burials attract animals that could dig up the bodies?
No. Natural burial is an ancient and very successful method of burial. Pioneer cemeteries located in wild areas that contained animals such as grizzly bears were not disturbed. In our years of experience at Honey Creek Woodlands, we have seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that animals are attracted to natural burial sites, despite the presence of dogs, coyotes, and deer.
Is natural (green) burial against anyone's religion?
Natural burial is in keeping with the most ancient burial traditions. While we cannot speak for every religion, we know that natural burial does not conflict with any major religions, and is a requirement for some faiths. Natural burial is an easy way for those observing religious traditions to meet the requirements of religious law, especially those of the Jewish or Muslim faith.
Rules and Regulations
Honey Creek Woodlands will not accept embalmed bodies for burial.
No burial vault of any kind may be used.
Honey Creek Woodlands requires a 48 hour notice prior to a cremation burial and 72 hours prior to full body burial.
All caskets, urns, and shrouds must be made of all natural, biodegradable materials.
Only approved vegetation, native to Georgia, may be planted.
No grave decorations other than natural cut flowers are permitted.
No statues or upright monuments of any kind are permitted.
Grave markers are limited to native field stones purchased through Honey Creek Woodlands.
As of March 1, 2015 the placement of benches is no longer allowed.
The placement of bird houses is no longer allowed.
Pets must be on a leash at all times. Please clean up after your pet.
No mulch, straw, or bark shall be brought into Honey Creek Woodlands. These items may contain pests or seeds of invasive species.
Do not remove or destroy any vegetation.
Carts must remain on cart paths at all times.
No balloons or balloon releases are allowed at Honey Creek Woodlands.
Cars are only permitted into the preserve for burials.
For Rules on Visiting/Cart Usage please click here.
Questions About the Service
Does Honey Creek Woodlands have a facility for funeral services?
We have an outdoor chapel on the hilltop that may be used for funeral services.
Can my church pastor perform the funeral service?
Of course. Honey Creek Woodlands is available to all people and each family may choose and perform the service they desire for their loved one.
Are family and friends allowed to take part in the burial ceremony?
Yes - we encourage the family to be a part of the service, especially the closing of the grave.
Will the monks from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit be involved in the burial services? Are they buried there?
No, the monks will not be directly involved in the burials, but they are committed to the protection of their land in a beautiful natural setting. Although the Trappist monks at the Monastery have traditional monastic burials - simple burial rites and interment into a hand dug grave without a casket - they have a private cemetery at the Monastery.
Do you have to be Catholic to be buried in Honey Creek Woodlands?
No - Honey Creek Woodlands is open to persons of all faiths, as well as those who claim no faith tradition.
Questions About the Future
How can we be sure that the burial grounds will be protected from development in the future?
Honey Creek Woodlands is protected by a conservation easement which will prohibit development forever. Also, a percentage of the sales price goes into a permanent endowment for the care of the burial grounds. The endowment will be used to maintain trails, roads and structures, and to keep public spaces open. It will also help keep invasive species at bay, and help in special circumstances (after a natural disaster, for example).
How do you keep track of where people are buried?
We enter data into a GIS (Geographical Information System) database for individual burials, based on reference markers along the trails, which are archived electronically and on paper. You may choose not to have any marker at all, or you may choose a stone marker (purchased through Honey Creek Woodlands) which will lay flat on the ground. Trees, shrubs and wildflowers can also be used as grave markers but must be appropriate for the location. Families may not plant on the graves without the express permission from the HCW staff.
How will the cemetery be maintained?
Monies collected through the 5% preservation fee and financial gifts to Honey Creek Woodlands assist in supporting the upkeep of the cemetery/preserve.