Lexington planning to offer green burials at Westview Cemetery

Lexington planning to offer green burials at Westview Cemetery

By Joy Richard
jrichard@wickedlocal.com Posted Jan 8, 2019 at 3:56 PM

Read original article at Wicked Local Lexington

The phrase ashes to ashes, dust to dust paints a portrait of death invokes one’s natural return to the Earth. But, as sensitivities around traditional burials use of chemicals have grown, some communities like Lexington and Westford are looking for greener options.

The term “green burial” may sound new, but it is a return to the historic way of laying a body to rest. It is an ecological, natural way of burying a body, which was common practice until the Civil War. At present, more than 90 percent of burials around the globe are done without embalming, metal casket, burial liner or vault. There are no traditional headstones. If there are grave markers they are typically flush with the ground and are sometimes stones found in the area of the burial.

Lexington and Westford are two of the first communities in the area to consider the move to environmental burials.

Lexington Director of Public Works David Pinsonneault confirmed that the town has been working with Green Burial Massachusetts, a statewide volunteer-run organization that provides educational programs about the value and benefits of having environmentally-friendly burials. The group initially met with town officials late last summer, and made a formal presentation in September. A proposal was approved by the Board of Selectmen, Pinsonneault said. If all goes according to plan, Lexington residents should be able to have green burials in Westview Cemetery by early summer.

The demand for green burials hasn’t been massive in Lexington, Pinsonneault said, but it is present. The draw for those in town, he said, is twofold. Green burials can be cheaper since they don’t require the typical embalming process, and the idea of doing less harm to the environment is aligned with the eco-friendly mindset of many in Lexington. The town recently passed a bylaw banning the retail use of thin plastic bags, and other restrictions on environmentally harmful materials like styrofoam could come sooner rather than later.

He expects the demand to rise once word spreads.

“It seems to be working its way into Massachusetts, a lot of people down on the Cape and South Shore are doing it,” he said. “Lexington is a very green community, it may be something that might rise in popularity once it gets underway.”

In mid December, the Westford Cemetery Commission appointed a sub-committee to help shape a proposal they will hopefully present to residents at the upcoming spring Town Meeting.

The nuts and bolts of a green burial

When it comes to the preparation of the deceased for a green burial, refrigeration, dry ice, or ice packs are used to keep the body cool if immediate burial is not possible, or desired by the family.

The body is placed in either a biodegradable container such as a pine box , a cardboard coffin, or a natural-fiber shroud, which is then placed directly into the grave. Flat memorial stone, or native plants/tree are generally used as grave site markers.

Burial at 3 1/2 to 4 feet will allow for aerobic bacteria to enhance the natural decomposition process.

Ross Cristantiello contributed to this story. He can be reached at rcristantiello@wickedlocal.com.

Three and a Half Feet Under: Cemeteries Are Wary of Green Burials

Seven Days
July 19, 2017

Fred Cheyette plans to be buried in a hayfield next to his house in the town of Orange. His body will be wrapped in a simple cotton sheet and placed three and a half feet deep in the earth, with an oak sapling planted atop the grave.

“So my body feeds the tree,” said the 86-year-old retired engineer and psychotherapist, who is peppier and more youthful looking than his years suggest.

Continue reading on sevendaysvt.com

This Is How I Want to Be Dead

The New York Times
July 7, 2017

Years ago, doing some research in England on moles — the burrowing kind — I paid a visit to the grave of Kenneth Grahame. As author of “The Wind in the Willows,” Grahame was the creator of the fictional Mole, a mild-mannered character beloved by children everywhere for messing about in boats, bumbling dimly into the Wild Wood and otherwise misadventuring with Ratty, Badger and Mr. Toad of Toad Hall.

Continue reading at The New York Times

With green caskets, a more earth-friendly end

Boston Globe
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As Arlington resident and suburban mom Ruth Faas leads a plumber down the stairs off her kitchen, she warns him he might find her basement a bit unusual, and maybe even disturbing.

That’s because it contains the inventory for her business neatly stacked against a wall: coffins.

How did a nice mom like Faas end up with a basement like this?

It’s in her blood. Her uncle ran a funeral home in western New York, a few hours away from where she grew up in Albany. For three summers she baby-sat her young nephews in their living quarters above the home.

Continue reading on Bostonglobe.com

Natural Burial: Bringing Death Back Down to Earth

The Progressive
August 3, 2016

Shelia Champion wasn’t surprised when she got the call saying her father had died. Her father, “Buster” Stice, a one-time cattleman from Stockton, Kansas, was almost eighty-six by then and in hospice care with advanced prostate cancer. On her last visit weeks before, Champion had been shocked at how bad her father looked. As she hugged  him before heading back to Alabama, she suspected it would be their last goodbye. Continue reading on progressive.org.

Dying traditions, and new life, in the funeral industry

Boston Globe
May 16, 2016

Death is inevitable, but, increasingly, traditional burials are not.

From diamonds made from cremated remains to eco-friendly interments, the $20 billion funeral industry is being reshaped, creating opportunities for the entrepreneurially minded — and financial hardship for those with business models more set in stone. Continue reading on Bostonglobe.com

Green burial movement advocates alternative to conventional interment

Daily Hampshire Gazette
November 11, 2015

As green living continues to take a more prominent place in the United States, there is now a growing movement that is focusing on green dying.

“Imagine living your whole life as an environmentally conscious person and at the end of your life, they pump you full of embalming fluid,” said Judith Lorei of Green Burial Massachusetts, and a member of the cemetery commission in Montague who spoke earlier this month at the Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst. Continue reading on Gazettenet.com