Green Burial

Those of you who attended our 2012 Annual Meeting will remember that one of our featured speakers was Sara Starr of the Foxfield Preserve in Wilmot, Ohio. At that time, Foxfield Preserve was the only green burial site in Ohio. Since then, three more sites have opened and a fourth is under development.

Today “green” or natural burial is considered an alternative practice, but in previous generations, interment in a wooden box, without embalming and without a concrete or metal vault would have been considered a normal burial. The goal of green burial is to reduce environmental impact.  Green cemeteries prohibit the use of vaults.  Some require that the interred body not be embalmed; others allow embalming with approved non-toxic chemicals.  Clothing, shrouds, and caskets must be made of natural, biodegradable materials.  If markers are allowed, the size and materials are limited in order to preserve a natural appearance.

Three of the four green cemeteries in Ohio are conventional cemeteries that have created green burial areas.  The North Lawn Cemetery in Canton is about 50 miles south of Cleveland. They have developed the Emerald Meadows section.   The Preble Memory Gardens in West Alexandria, near Dayton, has a Conservation Green Burial area.  All graves are hand-dug in this area, so 36 hours of notice is required before burial. The Glen Forest cemetery in Yellow Springs has been a public burial ground since 1823. In January of this year its Natural Burial Area was approved by the Green Burial Council. Green burial plots in these cemeteries may cost substantially more than traditional grave spaces. A standard plot at Glen Forest costs $600; a natural burial plot is $1500.  At the Preble Memory Gardens conventional spaces range from about $400 to $1800; a single grave space in the Green Burial Area is listed at $1770.

Foxfield Preserve is about 70 miles south. It was designed as a green cemetery from its inception.  It is part of The Wilderness Center, a non-profit nature and land conservancy.  Their philosophy is that Foxfield is a nature preserve first. With its meandering trails and native plants, it bears little resemblance to a conventional cemetery. Markers must be natural stone, cannot be polished, and cannot extend more than three inches above the ground.  The cost of internment rights is around $4000.

The newest green cemetery is also part of a nature preserve.  A non-profit land trust associated with Kenyon College in Gambier has purchased a golf course in Knox County.  About 30 acres will be converted into a green cemetery known as the Kokosing Nature Preserve.  The property will be restored to a more natural state with native prairie grasses and plantings.  This new cemetery is currently seeking approval by the Green Burial Council.

More information as well as a directory of cemeteries and funeral directors who have been certified for green burial can be found at the Green Burial Council’s website www.greenburialcouncil.org.  The FCA website,  www.funerals.org  , is always a trustworthy source of information.

— Mark Binnig

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