Editorial: Greening burials
By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 14, 2019
Those buried at Willow’s Rest Green Burial Area in Niagara Falls have their names recognized on a central memorial, a stone mined from a local quarry. Embalming is not used, to allow the body to return to the earth more quickly. Native trees have been planted on the two-acre property and seven pollinator gardens attract butterflies and encourage the wildflower meadow to flourish.
The cemetery, which was created about two years ago, is one of the more frequently cited examples of what natural, or green, burial can look like. It’s a return to more traditional burial methods, which also tend to create less of a carbon footprint.
Haliburton County doesn’t yet have a designated green burial site, but it really should.
Over the last year, several proponents of green burials have been organizing primarily through a working group of Environment Haliburton to educate the population about green burials and to discuss the topic with the county’s four lower-tier municipal councils.
Green burial, as defined by the Green Burial Society of Canada, adheres to five principles: no embalming, direct earth burial, ecological restoration/conservation, communal memorialization, and optimizing land use. All of these components seek to use the land in the most ecologically sensitive way as possible, returning the body to the earth as quickly as possible.
We are all organic material and our bodies, once we die, can be of benefit to the environment; green burials help that process along, by removing barriers such as grave liners and non-biodegradable caskets. Green burial sites can also be peaceful, natural places, planned carefully to create habitat for native plants and animals.
In Algonquin Highlands, a section of St. Stephen’s Cemetery is being considered for natural burials and other municipalities are examining the possibility of offering something similar.
A hitch, however, comes with winter burials, which are not offered anywhere in the county. Specialized equipment is needed to dig graves in the winter, plus councils would need to commit to the cost of maintaining cemeteries in the winter to allow for burials.
Without winter burials, cremation or embalming are necessary for those who would like their loved one’s body to be interred in Haliburton County, if death occurs in winter.
Momentum is building to find solutions to these issues, largely thanks to the work of Terry Moore and fellow green burial advocates, who have united under a new organization called the Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society.
What they need now is for anyone interested in having the option of winter burial or green burial (or both) to make sure they’re counted.
It’s likely there’s a desire for more choice among the local population, but councillors won’t know that unless that is made clear. The green burial society is keeping a list of interested individuals, or you can contact your councilllor directly.
Green burial can allow families and friends to honour the values of their departed loved ones. It’s an option that should be made available no matter where you live – especially in a place as natural and environmentally conscious as Haliburton County.