All-natural cemetery near Austin uses no coffins or chemicals

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The park is one of the few cemeteries in the state that offers green burials, meaning no coffins or chemicals. (KTRK)

A cemetery near Austin is making the burial process as natural as possible.

Eloise Woods Community Natural Burial Park is one of the few cemeteries in the state that offers green burials, meaning no coffins or chemicals.

"A green burial doesn't involve burying anything non-biodegradable or any chemicals. None of those things are required by law," said Eloise Woods owner Ellen Macdonald said.

Macdonald opened Eloise Woods five years ago on almost 10 acres of land. So far, it has become the final resting place for 86 people and 98 pets.

"The idea being that we aren't trying to protect people from nature. We want people to be able to decompose naturally and go back to nature as quickly and efficiently as possible," Macdonald said.

Macdonald said she is legally able to operate the burial park because of its size and distance from the city limits. She said the law only governs the depth a body must be buried, which is 18 to 24 inches depending on how it is covered.

"At this park families are allowed to bring the bodies up to the park themselves, and we've had families come up and dig their own grave. And families can lower the body into the earth themselves and cover them up. You can do really whatever you want," said Macdonald.

Felicity Coltman buried her husband, Peter in the park in 2012.

"We had a very wonderful life together. We didn't make 60 years quite," she said.

The family chose Eloise Woods because Peter loved the outdoors.

"I find the idea of embalming and traditional funeral parlors very ghoulish and upsetting. This is just so much freer," Coltman said. "My daughters and I and my son came out here the day after he died and we selected the lot. And we have a place there for me, and for my dog, Byron."

They said goodbye to Peter, then wrapped his body in white linen, gathered family and friends, and laid him to rest with their own hands.

The simplicity of a natural burial makes it less expensive than traditional methods. A 5' x 10' plot is about $2,300 and plots for infants are free.

"The last thing you should have to do is pay for that, so we're happy to donate the space," Macdonald said.

Eloise Woods is open to the public and has 15 different walking trails to enjoy.

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