Going out ‘green.’ Demand grows for Florida funerals that preserve nature, cut pollution
BY NICOLAS RIVERO
As bagpipes played, Janet McAliley’s family pulled her casket of woven seagrass on a wooden wagon down a dirt path through a wild green meadow in Central Florida. In life, McAliley was a moral pillar of Miami-Dade County: a 16-year school board member who crusaded for civil rights, the fair treatment of immigrants and many environmental causes. In death, she wanted to add to her environmental legacy. She chose to be laid to rest in what’s known as a “green burial” — in her case, at the Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery outside of Gainesville, Florida.
There would be no cremation, a process that contributes to climate change by producing as many carbon emissions as a 500-mile road trip. No embalming fluid, which seeps out of caskets and can pollute groundwater. And no concrete vault, which prevents the microbial denizens of the soil (for a time) from decomposing a body and returning it to the earth.
Instead, McAliley’s family lowered her biodegradable casket into a grave lined with palm fronds that had been dug by hand by a group of Prairie Creek volunteers who call themselves the Pick and Spade Society. Her family shared memories and placed roses on her casket. Then, to the trill of cicadas, the volunteers covered the casket with dirt and a pile of pine needles. They marked the grave with a simple brass stake that bore her name and the dates of her birth and death.