Where, How and Why to Choose Green Burial

It’s been a long time, but when I heard author and sailing nomad Ann Hoffner wrote a guide to green cemeteries, I just had to have her on the show. A green burial is one where the body is buried without toxic embalming fluids in a shroud or casket made of natural, biodegradable materials, typically in a naturalized setting like a meadow or woodlands. Green cemeteries have been popping up like daisies, so Ann wrote the definitive guide on where to find them, what they offer, how much they charge, and the story behind them. Her book is called The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide: A State-by-State Guide: Where, How and Why to Choose Green Burial. As soon as I learned about this option, I decided it was for me, and maybe it will be for you too. Ann’s book will help you choose, and here to tell you more about it is the author herself, in the first of my two part interview with Ann Hoffner on the Dance to Death Afterlife Podcast.

In this Episode You Will Learn About:

  • How to compare the environmental impact of cremation vs. burial
  • The concept of recycling in the death services industry
  • What it takes to burn a water balloon
  • Is green in mainstream consciousness?
  • Are boomers less green aware than millennials?
  • Why some plots cost more than others.
  • The importance of a physical marker
  • How to manage animals in a green cemetery. How wild does it get?
  • How to buy her book

Questions I prepared for Ann:

What motivated you to write it?

How would you describe a green or natural burial?

Is it fair to say you interviewed somebody at each and every cemetery in the book?

What are some of the more unusual cnversations you had?

I read one cemetery manager say baby-boomers aren’t much interested in green funerals, but we were the founders of Earth Day, the recycling practice, and even the transition to cremation, which is a greener alternative to traditional burial. How do boomers respond to the idea of natural burial, when presented with the facts?

The low cost and low volume of plot sales suggests green cemetery owners are not making much money. What are some of the reasons that motivates them to do what they do?

How can families be assured that such low budget operations will be able to sustain a high level of care in perpetuity? What is your answer to the question, and how would owners answer it?

Some cemeteries are attempting to become a tourist attraction. Tell me about that. How popular is grave touring, and what are the trends?

What other ways do natural cemeteries try to raise money to prevent “falling on hard times,” as some have done in the past?

Does it even make sense to think of a green cemetery “falling on hard times.” Does it not just start natural and stay that way?

What protections, such as deed restrictions, exist to ensure the property is not sold and the graves disturbed?

If land preservation can be guaranteed, by deed restriction or other mechanism, does it makes sense to choose a cemetery where Mother Nature is the one and only caretaker?

I’ve heard different advice about how deep in the soil a body should be placed for optimal aerobic activity (composting). Same say five feet deep. Bob Butz, author of “Going Out Green: One Man’s Adventure Planning His Own Natural Burial,” said “If giving your body back to the earth—composting it, as it were—be your goal, people who study this stuff have concluded that roughly four feet underground and no more is the prime “carcass decay zone.” What have you heard?

Tell me about “successive” or “renewable” lots. What are they, and how do they work?

It appears most of the religious sites are Catholic. Why do you think that is?

Since many people simply choose a cemetery based on the proximity to their home and family, how do you see people using your book?

 

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