A blueprint for sustainable business. Guest blog by Alma Kettles

Elevator and Business Gateway support a wide variety of businesses across a range of sectors, many of which offer something new to the marketplace.

Owned and run by Alma Kettles, CairnBrae Natural Burial Ground offers a more personal, affordable and tranquil alternative to a traditional cemetery burial.

Based just outside Dundee in Kellas, those being laid to rest at CairnBrae receive an eco-friendly environment in an attractive habitat for wildlife. Families have the option of planting a memorial tree or placing an engraved memorial stone on the grave, as opposed to a large expensive headstone. As trees are planted a nature-rich woodland is developing, serving as a beautiful legacy to those laid to rest.

To find out more about CairnBrae, we asked Alma a few questions:

What did you do before you started your business?

I was an Associate Director of an IT recruitment firm in Edinburgh.

What drew you towards your field of business?

I have always been environmentally conscious and an active fundraiser for wildlife and animal charities, growing up on a farm our family had run for four generations gave me a huge appreciation of how precious our countryside is. I started CairnBrae as I wanted to offer residents in this area a more affordable and ecologically sound alternative to a standard cemetery burial, for both ashes and full interments. The concept of a natural burial (sometimes also called woodland, green or eco-burial) is simple - a minimal and simultaneously positive impact on the environment when you pass away.

What hurdles and challenges have you faced in getting to the stage you are currently at?

Designing and building a burial ground is complex, we engaged specialist consultants to assist us during the planning stage in order to satisfy the multiple requirements set out by SEPA and the council. It took us 18months to plan, design and build Dundee and Angus’ first ever eco-burial ground. Operating a burial ground is a huge responsibility and you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time with families who are going through a very difficult time. Being empathetic and supportive is paramount.

How has Elevator and Business Gateway helped you and your business on its journey?

In the early stages of setting up the business I attended both the Finance for Business and Starting Up a New Business workshop which I found invaluable. Not only are they free, but the knowledge you pick up helps you in the day-to-day running of your business.

What aspect of your business have you taken the most pride in since you started?

A natural burial at CairnBrae will support and sustain the cycle of life, not compromise it. Unlike traditional cemeteries, we do not accept coffins or caskets made from precious hardwood; growing trees and cutting them down to then bury them is a waste of natural resources in my opinion. Instead, we encourage families to choose a biodegradable coffin or casket made from wicker, bamboo etc.

We also ask that the deceased are not embalmed - an invasive process of chemically preserving the body after death to delay decomposition which results in litres of toxic chemicals being buried with them and then leached in to the soil and waterways.

In addition, and in-keeping with the ethos of natural burial grounds, almost every built item at CairnBrae is made from recycled material. The memorial cairn and entrance wall are made from stones gathered from the fields, and the memorial oak benches were made from discarded wood retrieved from a local timber yard. Even the litter bin is made from an old potato box.

Although it has taken months of manual labour to transform what was an agricultural field into an attractive natural burial ground and wildlife haven, we are extremely pleased with the result and are proud to be contributing positively to the environment.

Has the business recently secured significant orders, expanded its premises, taken on new staff, received funding, produced something unique, increased exports, etc.?

Burials at CairnBrae are unique in that families can plant a tree over the grave as well as placing an engraved memorial stone, if they so wish. Unlike other cemeteries we are creating a nature-rich woodland that will cover the whole site, where each tree becomes a living and breathing legacy to the deceased. We can also offer families the option of purchasing a plot in advance as some traditional local authority cemeteries are running out of space and can no longer offer this option.

What do you love about running your business? Or the sector you work in?

Starting a business that helps to protect the environment and wildlife was hugely important to me. Being able to support bereaved families at such a difficult time and offer them a new, less rushed and more personal funeral experience is also extremely rewarding.

What plans do you have for the future of your business?

We have plans to involve more community and conservation groups at CairnBrae as the woodland matures. To date we have engaged with Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, Scottish Wildlife Trust and The Aberfeldy Workshop.

For more information go to www.cairnbrae.co.uk or follow CairnBrae Natural Burial Ground on Facebook.

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