[Prairie Home natural cemetery manager David Brenner of Waukesha Wisconsin has a good article in here about transitioning his cemetery to natural burial - ed]
About 2 years ago, I was reading various environmental articles about such things as carbon foot print, energy alternatives, rain gardens and a plethora of other such topics. All of these articles spoke to new trends and things that one could do to be friendlier to mother earth. I also saw writings that dealt with the move to “green” burials in England, and what was happening there since the 1990’s.
I found it very intriguing that the new” trend was really talking about something very old, and a practice that is widely followed in many parts of the world today.
To me it appeared that this trend in England might have some legs on this side of the pond too. A relatively small number of natural burial options around the country were already available. It seemed that public interest was of a level that warranted a serious investigation on our part.
Such began our exploration. Not a lot of surprises about what we found out. We found that many aging baby boomers were much more ecology minded than previous generations. Right or wrong, we found that a good number of this group felt that the expense of today’s funeral is excessive and that the money could be used for other things. We found that some people feel that spending money on embalming, a vault and a casket seems wasteful. And we found that some people, who had opted to plan for cremation as an alternative to today’s in-ground burial, were never totally comfortable with that option.
Many of these things led us to the conclusion that we should seriously consider “green” burial as an added service option at Prairie Home. We decided to partner with a cemetery design consultant, CPRA Studios, of Littleton, Colorado, to more fully explore the possibility of seriously offering this alternative.
Initially we posed the problems and challenges, and for every problem and challenge, my staff, I and the consultant were able find a reason- able solution. The net result was that we decided to offer this alternative to our customers, and a green light to go with “green” burial was given. Next we continued our relationship with CPRA to actually make it happen.
[editor's note: the Natural Burial Company's Sustainable Cemetery Management Group with Ken West was the natural burial lead on this project]
Prairie Home ultimately decided on offering “natural” burial. We felt that to call it green burial would create the impression that our cemetery was green, which we are not. For example, our electricity comes off the grid… much of our equipment is gas or diesel powered (not bio-diesel)…. and we dig grave mechanically (not by hand). Natural burial is a term we are much more comfortable with.
To be clear, natural burial means that we will bury an unembalmed body, that is shrouded and/or in a wicker type casket or an unvarnished all wooden casket in a standard depth grave.
Additionally, Prairie Home is establishing a prairie setting location for this application, converting about 12 acres of turf area to native prairie grasses and wild flowers. We will also permit natural burial in the traditional sections of the cemetery as well (with some limitations).
So where are we? In late October or early November we will have the 12 acre are slit seeded with native grasses and wild flowers and will begin the 3 year period to establish the prairie. Shortly after the seeding, we will mark out the graves from the plat. And shortly after that we will begin selling in this “new” area. We already have a waiting list of people who want to buy in this area, and date we have already pre-needed several customers in the already established areas of the cemetery.
While we recognize that not everyone wants this type of burial, I think that as time goes on it will become more popular. Prairie Home, which offers many different burial options already, wants to be ready for this growing trend.