digital mapping

Digital Cemetery Mapping for Green Burial Sites

How digital mapping can help green burial grounds to effectively manage their space with a clearer view of exactly what they have and where they have it.

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| Read time 3 mins

The rise of green and natural burial grounds reflects both a growing eco-awareness, and changing attitudes towards death and memorialisation. As consumers look to eco-friendly alternatives to traditional burials and seek more unique, personalised ways of being remembered, green burials are growing in number.

With a focus on reducing environmental impact, conservation, sustainability and biodiversity, green burial sites are often located within natural, or rural areas, with interments, inurments and scatterings taking place within open fields, forests, woodlands, meadows, on hillsides and other natural spaces.

And so, with many of the same practical, logistical and operational considerations as traditional burial services, in creating final resting places in respect of the naturally occurring landscape, green burial operators face a number of challenges that are unique.

Fundamentally, that boils down to being able to see exactly what they have, where they have it, and being able to access that information when they need it.

And that’s where digital cemetery mapping comes in.

In this blog, we look at how it can help green burial operators to overcome some common, and not so common challenges, by enabling a clearer view of their natural burial grounds.

#1 Accurate plot layouts

As much by ethos as by design, green burial ground plot layouts can be less formal or regimented than traditional burial grounds. ‘Being part of nature’ means integrating graves or plots within the natural landscape - with all of its idiosyncrasies - often without traditional headstones or markers. 

In practice, this can make it harder to achieve a true and accurate picture of the space, as well as being  more difficult to locate individual plots when out in the grounds.

Put simply, digital mapping can complete that picture, providing well defined plot points and location data which, when collected and stored within a cemetery management system can help staff to easily visualise, search for and locate each plot.

Digital mapping isn’t a one size fits all, and will always account for the unique circumstances of both the operator and the space they occupy. As such, this will often require a bespoke approach.

That may mean, utilising a combination of techniques, for example, the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) combined with GPS surveying, along with markers to provide accurate pins to measure from. 

In their Oxton site, Tithe Green, took the approach of placing a series of markers from which they were able to lay out a grid formation. These markers were then picked out by PlotBox’s aerial drone photography which was then overlaid onto existing maps to create a high resolution digital map of the entire site.

Read more about Tithe Green and Digital Mapping.

#2 Inventory management

You now know where your plots are. How do you manage them? 

Digital mapping, when combined with cemetery management software, can help by providing real-time data on plots and how they’re being used. A color heat map, for example, will show at a glance the status of a plot with all of its related information, such as availability, ownership or capacity.

Knowing exactly which plots are in use, which are available for new burials, and exactly where they are will help to ensure complete visibility and control of what you have to offer, allowing you to effectively manage your inventory and resources in order to meet demand. 

Importantly, this information will also help to avoid mis-sold or double-sold plots, which, without an accurate and up to date picture of inventory is a real possibility.

In terms of maintaining the site, digital maps will help to identify areas in need of care and allow ground teams to locate graves more easily - especially when natural burial graves have faded and are without easily identifiable markers.

By simply dropping a virtual pin, mapping tools can also show exactly where work needs to be carried out, and also track the status of work orders, streaming processes and improving communication.

#3 A better experience for families

Green burial sites provide beautiful spaces for visitors to take in the surrounding environment and connect with nature.

Favoring grave sites that use natural markers such as memorial trees or small boulders (or, in some cases, blended completely into nature), versus more clearly identifiable traditional headstones can make it more difficult for families to locate the graves of loved ones.

Linking plot locations to digital maps will help to ensure that visitors can navigate their way around the site, and, to further enhance the experience, digital tools such as walk-to-grave-apps can provide detailed directions to exact grave locations for a more seamless, interactive experience.

Expanding this idea, linking plot records to mapping information that is shared online can provide a valuable public resource. Giving the opportunity to explore deceased records, browse interactive maps and even view images of grave sites or markers will help to connect families with their loved ones and connect you to your community.

In terms of pre-need sales, digital maps provide a powerful sales tool, allowing teams to quickly and easily access all of the information they need - in terms of available plots, capacities, dimensions and even pricing information.

Just as importantly, digital maps provide a reference for families, allowing them to clearly visualise plot layouts and locations, helping them to make informed purchase decisions.

Made available remotely, digital maps can also allow those who live far away or who have limited mobility the opportunity to view sites from the comfort of their own homes, removing any potential barriers to selling.

The range of benefits continues. 

Digital maps can also allow operational managers to plan out and make the most efficient use of the space available - aided by clearly delineated grid markings, helping to analyse burial plot layouts in respect of the overall environment.

Speaking of which, with conservation and preservation of the landscape priorities, digital maps can also help to balance the practical needs of the cemetery with the need to preserve the natural environment.

One of the five principles of green burial according to The Green Burial Society of Canada is ‘Optimised land use’, stating “A well planned green cemetery will optimise the land it occupies”.

In practice, being able to clearly visualise the space will allow new burials to be introduced in a way that doesn’t encroach upon the natural environment, ensuring the many diverse ecosystems are undisturbed and able to grow and flourish.

Knowing that what’s in the office matches exactly what’s on the ground can be a challenge for all deathcare operators, with disjointed, legacy systems pulling information from different sources that sometimes provide conflicting information.

Digital mapping can, in effect, provide an audit of the cemetery space, matching and verifying the information held on file, linked to a single plot location and managed within a single system.

In summary, then, digital mapping provides green burial operators with the visibility they need to manage and optimise the space they have most effectively, while maximising their resources and supporting their remit for sustainability and reducing environmental impact.

Read how digital mapping has provided a clearer view for Tithe Green’s natural burial sites.

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