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Green Burial & Earth Love
14 February, 2021(0)CommentsNgaio Davis

“The purest, most idealistic, truthful and honest love story one can ever live without the slightest sense of regret is that of loving nature.” 

– Unknown

What is Green Burial?

Green burials may have become more and more popular in recent years but it’s really been around since the beginning of human civilization. 

So what is green burial?

Green burial is rooted in the belief that death care practices conserve resources, protect people and the land from toxic chemicals, reduce carbon emissions and leaves the least environmental impacts.

The Traditional Way

Simply put, a body is prepared without embalming, buried in either a biodegradable shroud or simple container or casket made from natural materials. The casket is not covered by a concrete vault. Instead of traditional concrete headstones, plants, trees or fieldstones mark the graves. 

In October of 2008, Canada’s first urban green burial site opened in Victoria, BC. At the Woodlands at Royal Oak Burial Park, human remains are returned to the earth, allowing decomposition to happen naturally and contribute to a new life in a forest setting. 

The Woodlands at Royal Oak Burial Park is one of only three green burial cemeteries in the country — as designated by the Green Burial Society. The Green Burial Society awards this designation to cemeteries that allow us to be more conscious of our impact when we die, based on these five principles:

  1. No embalming.
  2. Direct earth burial.
  3. Ecological restoration & conservation.
  4. Communal memorialization.
  5. Optimize land use.

You can learn more about each of the five principles here.

The Future of Death Care in Vancouver

The reason this is important now is that the City of Vancouver is putting together a 20-year plan for our community. They’re making decisions about everything that impacts citizens’ lives, but one topic is NOT included: end of life care, cemeteries, and crematoriums.

In BC, we have some access to green burials. Denman Island Natural Burial Cemetary in Denman (or Sla-dai-aich, its indigenous name), one of the northern Gulf Islands, is the first exclusively natural burial cemetery in Canada. Only present and past residents of Denman Island and their immediate family members are eligible. There is a designated green burial space at Heritage Gardens in Surrey. Mountain View Cemetary is the only cemetery in the city of Vancouver and has a hybrid designation. 

For those in the lower mainland, the limited options make it difficult for us to choose green and natural burial in our area. It can often be easier to have a green burial in rural areas because even if a cemetery isn’t designated as such, smaller ones are likely to say: “Sure, no problem.”

Some municipalities are looking at ways to offer green burials in their cemeteries, but change is slow to happen.

We Want to Hear from You

Do you feel strongly about green and natural burial? Speak to the leaders of your department of municipal cemeteries. Bring it up with your local politicians and ask why we don’t have better options.

Or, if you happen to be in a position to donate some land, let’s turn it into a green burial cemetery. We’d love to talk to you!

Photo Credit: Dominik Scythe and Maria Teneva from Unsplash.com

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