Are you ready?
As the families we serve adopt more environmentally-conscious lifestyles, they are increasinlyg seeking ways to imbue their end-of-life choices with the same values that underpinned their lives. For these families, the opportunity to choose green burial provides a meaningful way to make a final, philosophical statement that is spiritually fulfilling for themselves as well as those that they leave behind.
Are you ready to serve green burial families? Have you taken the time to learn about green burial and to understand the green burial consumer? If you haven’t, you should, because green burial is coming to your community—if it hasn’t already. In recent years, green burial and the public’s interest in the topic has been covered by the spectrum of Canadian media. The National Post, CTV National News, the Globe and Mail, McLean’s, countless local news outlets, death care trade publications, and even Reader’s Digest have covered the green burial story in Canada.
Green burial – the interment of a body directly into the earth—is nothing new; in fact, it’s the oldest form of human disposition, practiced by human civilizations over the course of human evolution. The modern green burial movement is just an acknowledgement of the value of this practice, having arisen from renewed interest in the practice that emerged out of the UK over the past few decades.
Sometimes known as “natural burial,” green burial is an environmentally-sensitive alternative to traditional burial as well as cremation. In the modern context, cremation interment may also be considered green burial, providing the five key principles of the practice are followed, including:
· No Embalming: A body is prepared for green burial without embalming. Decomposition is nature’s way of recycling a body and green burial families regard embalming as a highly invasive, unnatural and unnecessary practice.
· Direct Earth Burial: The un-embalmed body is wrapped in a shroud made of natural, biodegradable fibres and buried directly in the grave. The shrouded remains can also be placed into a casket as long as this container is also fully biodegradable and constructed from sustainable materials. A grave liner or vault is not used in order to encourage natural decomposition.
Communal Memorialization: Individual memorials are discouraged and are often prohibited in green burial grounds. Instead, communal memorialization that utilizes naturally-sourced materials may be placed in a green burial area, with only simple inscriptions of the deceased. Ultimately, it is the green burial site as whole that becomes a living memorial to the persons interred there.
· Ecological Restoration and Preservation: Once a green burial is complete and the grave has settled, it is planted with locally-indigenous plants, which may include trees and shrubs along with a groundcover to stabilize the grave. These plantings are typically conducted according to a pre-established plan that is designed to optimize the creation, enhancement and integration of the entire interment area into its ecological context. Finally, site preservation and perpetual protection are key components of green burial. A combination of land covenants, protective easements, and other enforceable guarantees made by the green burial cemetery operator are put in place to ensure the site is never repurposed and the natural eco-system is allowed to flourish, with assured protection – in perpetuity.
· Optimized Land Use: A well-planned green burial cemetery (or cemetery section) will optimize the land it occupies. Design elements will include minimal infrastructure, temporary roads that can be removed and converted into interment lots, operationally pragmatic grave dimensions, and section lot plans that maximize interment capacity.
GREEN BURIAL IS TRENDING
Green burial is a trend. This has been proven in the UK: in 1993 the Carlisle Cemetery opened the first woodland green burial site; today in the UK, there are nearly 300 active green burial “woodlands.” And green burial is expanding across North America: in the US, the Green Burial Council (GBC) now has 340 certified cemetery and funeral service facilities across 41 states, along with sites in six Canadian provinces. Canada’s first urban GBC certified green burial site opened in Victoria, B.C. in 2008. Since then, a small number of other communities in Canada have made green burial available.
Admittedly, Canada is lagging behind in providing green burial options to consumers. But a new organization, the Green Burial Society of Canada (GBSC), plans to change that. Through education, advocacy, eliciting “buy-in” from death care providers—and with the hard work of a passionate membership—the GBSC aspires to bringing green burial to communities across Canada.
Ready or not, the UK and the US experience, along with the voice of Canadian consumers, istelling us that the public is very interested in green burial, they want green burial, and many would consider choosing this for themselves if it weremade available to them. Consumers also tell us that if they run into resistance in finding getting green burial providers in the established industry, they will seek out alternative providers, and the means to have their service preferences met. Those death care providers that underestimate or minimize the consumer interest and demand for green burial run the risk of repeating the mistake made by the industry inthe late 1950’s, when it believed that growing interest in cremation things was “just a fad.”
The Canadian public is changing. Increasingly, Canadians are seeking more health-conscious lifestyles that are centered on self-guided spirituality, an active commitment to the environment, healthy living –and death. Death care providers that want to avoid being left behind by this trend need to adapt to these new realities in order to serve and honour the lifestyle choices of the “new” consumer.
MADE IN CANADA … HELP IS AT HAND
Canadians, whether it be individuals, organizations and death care service providers, need a credible, “go-to” organization for green burial information and advocacy.
On March 7th, 2013, the Green Burial Society of Canada was incorporated in B.C. Shortly after, the Society’s first AGM was held in Richmond, B.C. with 18 interested persons in attendance. The GBSC was founded by a small but passionate group of people, working in disparate disciplines but united by a common cause: the advancement of green burial in Canada. The Green Burial Society of Canada is a wholly Canadian, independent organization.
Here is what the Green Burial Society of Canada is preparing to do:
· ADVOCATE for the adoption of environmentally responsible and ecologically sustainable interment, cremation, funeral service and bereavement care practices in every facet of death care delivery in Canada.
· ASSIST organizations, businesses, individuals and governments across Canada to adapt and implement green burial standards and best practices for the provision of environmentally responsible and ecologically sensitive death care practices in their local jurisdiction.
· ESTABLISH such standards and best practices as may permit the society to recognize place of interment operators, crematorium operators and funeral service providers and professionals in Canada who commit to providing their goods and services in accordance with the standards, goals and objectives of the Society.
· PROMOTE, at every opportunity, the values, goals and objectives of the society throughout Canada and, with other like-minded organizations foster the mutual exchange of ideas, discussion of issues of common concern and the study and advancement of green funeral, interment and cremation practices.
· WORK in support of the goals and objectives of and in collaboration with international green burial organizations and advocates that desire in the global context to advance sustainable death care practices.
It is also very important to note that the Green Burial Society of Canada is inclusive and supportive, and fully respects conventional death care practices, death care providers and the death care choices made by individual consumers. The GBSC is not about diminishing conventional modes of
body preparation, disposition or memorialization that continue to represent meaningful family traditions for some.
The GBSC believes that death care services can be made more environmentally sensitive and sustainable. It is the Society’s mission to show how this can be done, and to advocate for, and help make, those environmentally-responsive services a part of the broad range of death care service options available to Canadians.
The Green Burial Society of Canada welcomes the opportunity to work with any existing or new cemetery operator or funeral service providers that want to bring green burial and more sustainable funeral practices to their operations. Ultimately, the GBSC wants to be the one-stop resource for “all things green burial,” including “green” funeral services, across Canada.
YOU CAN LEARN…YOU CAN HELP
If you want to learn more about green burial (you know you should!), and about the new “made in Canada” society, visit the website at www.greenburialcanada.ca. The site is a growing resource about the fundamentals of green burial, the Society and the Society’s plans, and its goals. And if you don’t find an answer to your questions, just email the GBSC at: email@example.com. Even if you just sign up for the mailing list, you’ll be doing yourself a favour!
And if you are passionate about green burial, the Society is looking for early-adopters and “ground-floor specialists” to help build the organization into a truly pan-Canadian organization. As a start-up organization, the GBSC is seeking volunteers from across Canada to represent a broad spectrum of partners we need to build the organization. If you believe in the purposes of the GBSC, green burial principles in general, and believe that you have expertise that could help, please do not hesitate to contact the GBSC at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the popular TV show the Game of Thrones, a signature phrase was used: “Winter is coming…are you ready?” Since winter is pretty much always coming in Canada, we’ll close with a related question: “Green burial is coming…are you ready?”