Green goodbye: B.C. opens Canada’s 1st natural burial ground
British Columbians are known for living a green lifestyle, but now one Northern Gulf Island community is extending that eco-friendliness -- into death.
This weekend Denman Island will perform its first so-called “natural burial” as it opens Canada’s only stand-alone natural burial ground.
The environmentally-friendly service shuns the traditional practices of conventional cemeteries and crematoriums, which use harmful chemicals, concretes and metals to embalm and bury bodies.
Natural burials are intended to allow human remains to be returned to the earth to decompose naturally, and contribute to new life. They must also meet certain criteria. Bodies are prepared without embalming fluid and are buried in a fully-biodegradable casket or container -- sometimes bodies are given a simple shroud.
The human remains are placed directly in the ground with no outside (concrete) grave liner, or ashes can be sprinkled through a scattering area.
While cemeteries like the Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria have been setting aside some spaces for green burials for several years, the Denman Island project is the first stand-alone facility of its kind in the country.
“We know that people that have been waiting for this,” said Gloria Michlin, Denman Island Memorial Society Chair.
What sets this burial ground apart is that once your loved one is laid to rest you won’t know exactly where they are buried. No headstones are markers are allowed, with the point being that the land can return to its natural state. A 3x5 plaque can be placed on a memorial wall to commemorate your loved one.
Instead of dropping off flowers at a headstone, loved ones can stroll the wooded grounds and think about the memory of the departed.
“Our goal is to have this site regenerated ultimately as a forest,” said Michlin. “The only thing that would mark it in the distant future as a cemetery is the gathering space, the memorialization and the gates.
Allen Williams, who stopped in to see what the natural cemetery is all about, feels it’s a logical choice for people who spent their lives caring about the planet.
“It’s a great idea, you know, environmentally,” he said. “Embalming fluid isn’t good for the environment and this will clean it up.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Gord Kurbis