New collaboration for green cemetery under way!
The Green Cemetery Initiative is a new collaboration between Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the Green Burial Committee, a committee of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts. The purpose of this innovative partnership is to establish Massachusetts’ first green cemetery open to all.
Green burial meets a growing demand for alternatives to conventional burials in the United States, which are more expensive and have a considerable impact on the environment. By one estimate, each year we bury approximately 827,060 gallons of toxic embalming fluid, 104,272 tons of steel, 2700 tons of copper and bronze, 30-plus million board feet of hardwood, and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete.
Green or natural burials, in contrast, leave a legacy of harmony with nature. They offer a final resting place in a permanently protected natural setting, and provide those who choose it the opportunity to use their final act as a way to protect nature and the local landscape and inspire the next generation to make respectful use of it.
While a small number of Massachusetts cemeteries do allow for natural burial, they are generally open only to residents of the city or town in which they are located. Currently, unless a person can be buried on family property, there are no other options available for those who want a natural burial. A green cemetery owned by Mount Grace would be non-denominational and available to anyone wishing to be buried without embalming and without a grave liner or vault. Coffins, if used, would be made of biodegradable materials; grave markers, if used, would be of local fieldstone.
Mount Grace works through its Community Conservation Program to support new ideas about land conservation that arise organically from local partners, including a community desire for a cemetery that combines natural burials with land conservation. To the land trust, a green cemetery also provides an opportunity to demonstrate yet another way that protected land can benefit people.
The Green Burial Committee approached Mount Grace specifically because of its visionary approach to land conservation. The common link between land trusts and green cemeteries is the desire to protect a significant parcel of land with minimal disruption to the habitat, the setting, and the soil. By collaborating with a land trust, the Green Burial Committee gains a partner with experience in managing more than 1,400 acres of land. Like that land, a green cemetery will set aside open space for natural habitat, while at the same time encouraging the public to visit a beautiful spot that will be a destination for generations to come. Mount Grace and the Green Burial Committee will now look for land suitable for a green cemetery within the 23 towns served by Mount Grace.
The Green Burial Committee has worked for many years to educate the public about green burial by giving talks and workshops, offering guidance to cities and towns, and providing information about green cemeteries outside of Massachusetts. This new collaboration with Mount Grace brings all Massachusetts residents a little closer to the option of being buried in a natural way within the Commonwealth.