About This Course

This 12-week comprehensive course will focus on the tools, techniques, and technology used in operating a natural cemetery. Students will learn about natural cemetery: organization options; property management; grave operations; site design; documentation platforms; records and data management programs; money management, including endowments; marketing; differences between laws, bylaws, regulations, policies; writing guidebooks and guidelines; communication necessities; and sales, products and services. We will also explore best practices as informed by science, the conservation community, and cemetery operator experience, plus religious and cultural needs and the ethics of environmental justice within the context of demand for more eco-friendly, affordable, and authentic disposition options. Successful completion will earn CEUs.

Course Format

  • One-hour per week for 12 weeks
  • Online, real-time instructor
  • Guest experts/video presentations
  • Readings and video assignments
  • Independent research
  • Interactive discussion
  • Access to instructor between sessions
  • Access to broad range of resource lists and links
  • Two assigned assessment projects

Course Progression

Week 1: The Cultural and Environmental Call for Natural Burial Practices - Definitions and terms; historical impact; public health myths vs. facts; ecological goals; body care preparation; worker safety; ritual and ceremony; overall funeral reform

Week 2: Legal Matters, Requirements, and Certification Standards - State requirements; right to undisturbed remains; bylaws; funeral industry regulations; private citizen’s rights; liability and waivers; deeds and property; preneed; at-need; endowments and funding sources; abandoned cemetery acquisition; certification standards

Week 3: Technology - Recordkeeping, accounting, and invoicing software; annual reports; office management tools; property mapping; historical data management; property monitoring technology; GIS and GPS systems; grave mapping; site design tools

 Week 4: Documentation - Natural Resource Inventories, Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs), Integrated Pest Management Plans (IPMs)

Week 5: Communications - Guidebook for families, funeral professionals, and clergy development; handbooks for employees and volunteers; volunteer programs, policies and guidelines development; visitation policy design, including pet and animal visitation; tools for online grave selection; signage design

Week 6: Memorialization - Using digital processes and programs for interactive memorialization; use of hardscapes and  vegetation; designing art installations; cenotaphs and markers; developing grave decor rules

Week 7: Grave Operations - Developing a maintenance and operations manual; how to prepare, fill, and maintain the grave; burial density; staff, volunteers, and gravedigger safety protocols; guiding professionals, clergy, musicians, and family during before, during and after services

Week 8: Environmental Impact and Conservation - Science of water and soil, flora and fauna; pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers; impact of cremated remains on soil and trees; burial from a conservationists’ point of view; conservation best practices; easements and other instruments, green burial as a conservation strategy; landscaping for aesthetics vs. wild scaping and return to native plants only

Week 9: Green Products - Greenwashing; carbon footprint of transported goods; sustainably harvested, biodegradable materials; fluids, disinfectants, nontoxic embalming products

Week 10: Starting a New Cemetery - Finances; seed money and endowments; sustainable long range financial planning; organization; filings and applications; community partners; logistics; land trust partnerships; sustainability planning

Week 11: Best Business Practices - Perpetual and endowment funds management; sourcing green products, including caskets, shrouds, urns, embalming fluids, supplies; multiuse activities management, supplementing and expanding revenue centers; marketing green burial and consumer education; best staff and volunteer management practices; providing green products and services to special needs, military, infant or child, ethnic or religious families and communities; pricing; cultivating community relationships; building partnerships, succession planning

Week 12: Ethics - Environmental and social justice; financial and regional access; perpetual care; professionalism; managing conflict; religious, spiritual, moral perspectives re: entitlement to property after death, section exclusivity

 After the Course - CEUs and Certification Recommendations. Free instructor access for 3 months

Your Instructors

Holly Blue Hawkins

Natural Deathcare advocate, educator, community organizer, cemeterian, author and poet, Holly Blue Hawkins is a member of the Gamliel Institute faculty and Rosha Chevra Kadisha (Head of Jewish Burial Society). She is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California and is listed on the Green Burial Council's Speakers Bureau. With over 35 years of experience, Holly Blue provides education, training and consultation in a wide range of end-of-life subjects in both Jewish and secular settings. She has taught community college extension courses in all aspects of end-of-life planning and the need for environmentally sustainable and culturally-sensitive practices and facilities for several years, spoken at international conferences, trained home funeral guides, consulted with cemetery management and mortuary care center personnel, and visited countless natural burial sites from England to Hawai’I to learn more about cemetery management from a natural perspective.

Lee Webster

Lee Webster’s experience in education and development for private secondary schools, colleges and universities and serving in nonprofit leadership positions of the National Home Funeral Alliance, Green Burial Council, Conservation Burial Alliance, National End-of-Life Doula Alliance, NH Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy, and the Funeral Partnership inform her work as a nationally recognized educator in the end of life sphere. She guest lectures routinely at various prominent colleges and universities, and has designed the only course on green funeral practices taught in mortuary schools in the US. Webster has published extensively on a wide range of funeral reform topics and green burial-specific how-to guides, many featured in Changing Landscapes: Exploring the growth of ethical, compassionate and environmentally sustainable green funeral service. Her latest collaborative book, The Future of the Corpse: Our Changing Places and Perceptions of the Dead and Mourning, which is being released in the fall of 2021.
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Go Beyond the Basics

For those interested in going beyond a basic understanding of green and natural burial.

The course is designed for anyone with an interest in managing a natural burial cemetery. The course will be taught through instructor and guest lectures, readings, on-line videos and presentations, open discussion sessions, and demonstrations. For those earning CEUs, full participation is mandatory. Assessments will be given in the form of two exams plus class participation. Material covered in this class will be included on the voluntary certification examination through an independent, third-party certifying body.

"Holly Blue and Lee are incredible, thoughtful mentors with the technical chops to deliver advanced training."

Brian Hayden - Founder, Redesigning the End

A Transformative Educational Experience

This course provides students with an mentorship and in-depth understanding of green burials, including:

  • how and why of increasing demand

  • cultural influencess

  • scientific premises

  • spiritual considerations

  • legal concerns

  • technical skill areas

  • health & safety facts

  • environmental sustainability

  • standard practices and procedures

Have Questions?

If you want to talk to a real human being about this course, call 800-685-7331 or submit your email below and we will reach out to you.

Not ready for this advanced course?

Start with one of these introductory, free learning opportunities: