EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 17, 2013

'Green' burials are becoming more popular

Elder Q&A
Rosanne DiStefano

---- — Q: My parents (88 and 92 years old) are quite independent. I am thankful to still have them with me, but at the same time I am realistic about how many years they have left to live. They have made all the legal and financial preparations regarding their estate and end-of-life choices. The one issue that has never been addressed relates to funeral and burial arrangements. How do I start the conversation and what should they be considering?

A:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color The answer to your question is not as simple and straightforward as many would think. Over the next few months this column will be providing a brief overview on funerals, cremation, modern day burials and this week a somewhat unfamiliar concept of green burials.

One source describes green burials as a return to time-honored traditions and customs. There is a growing movement to encourage an approach to green living by minimizing the damage to our environment. Reducing pollution, conserving energy, organic farming and recycling waste products are just a few components of this concept. With this in mind a green burial “ensures that the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects” utilizing bio degradable caskets, shrouds or blankets (linen or cotton). Embalming fluid or concrete vaults are prohibited. Individuals who choose this option generally opt out of granite or marble headstones and instead mark the grave by planting a living tree or ornamental shrub. Advocates of this type of burial strongly believe our bodies should be returned to nature as originally intended.

Green burials and green cemeteries are not currently available throughout the nation. There has been a growth in the movement in Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, Georgia, Maryland, California, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Maine. A few other states are in the process of exploring introducing the cemeteries in selected locations. Anyone interested in pursuing this option should speak with the governing body who has oversight of the cemetery property in the municipality requesting the consideration of allowing a green burial within the existing cemetery.

Introducing sensitive topics can be a challenge for some families depending upon past relationships and communication skills. Since your parents have been pro-active in their planning up to this point there is a possibility they just haven’t thought about their final resting place. Start the conversation by emphasizing it is important for you to carry out their individual wishes and honor them for the life they have lived. Other family members have used the strategy of talking about funerals and burials they have attended or the conflicts that have arisen when plans were not made in advance.

This is the first in a series of columns discussing personal preferences for burial options. Sincere appreciation is extended to Richard Dewhirst, CFSP, CPC, licensed funeral care professional for providing information and insight into these issues. We encourage all families to begin thoughtful discussions regarding their own choices for their final resting place.

For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890. Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.