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Green Cemeteries

The Municipality of Highlands East
Prepared by Brittany Pedersen and Monique Sheehan
U-Links Centre for Community- Based Research and the
Municipality of Highlands East

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Agenda
1. Trent Community Research
Project
2. Background Research
3. What are Green
Cemeteries?
4. Types of Green Burials
5. Benefits

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Trent Community-Based Research Project

Research Objective: Based on the resources available to the Municipality of
Highlands East (HE) what are the recommended green burial options for six
cemeteries within the municipality?

Purpose:
● Investigate environmentally friendly/responsible methods of burial,
specifically for the Municipality of Highlands East
● The Municipality is searching and seeking to implement more green
initiatives, and requires research regarding Green Cemeteries and
specifically on the possible success of such burials.
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Study Area: The Municipality of Highlands
East
- Amalgamation of 4 townships
- Permanent pop. of roughly 3,300;
Seasonal Pop. 13,000
- 6 Cemeteries in focus:
○ Deer Lake Cemetery
○ South Wilberforce Cemetery
○ Gooderham and Pioneer Cemetery
○ Essonville Pioneer Cemetery
○ Essonville South Cemetery
○ MacGilverary Cemetery

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What are Green Cemeteries?

- Minimal environmental impact
- Conservation of natural resources
- Reduce carbon emissions
- Protect workers health
- Restore/preserve natural habitat
- Non-toxic and biodegradable materials

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Findings: Cobourg (Union Cemetery)

● First cemetery in Ontario offering a dedicated site to Green
burial (2009)
● Located alongside a creek; meadow
● No premium green burial charge
● No cremation allowed but can place those waiting at home
waiting to be interred together (“Resting together”)
● Only native plants allowed to be planted
● Lack of headstones gives a peaceful setting and they come
and visit for peace of mind
● Canadian-made caskets from sustainably-forested trees

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Photos from Union Cemetery

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Green Burial vs. Traditional Burial vs.
Cremation
Green Burial Traditional Burial Cremation

Average Cost $1,500 - $2,500 $7,000 - $10,000 $3,000

Casket Type Biodegradable natural Steel or wood with Urn -wood, natural
wood or environmentally external chemical stone, ceramic, glass, or
safe fibres such as coating steel
cotton or linen

Headstone Small stone marker Granite, marble or Not applicable -
about the size of a hand limestone and fixed to potential plaque on
the ground with a mausoleum
concrete base

Body Preservation None Embalmed with a Variable
mixture of
formaldehyde, other
chemicals, and water 8
Comparison Continued
Green Burial Traditional Burial Cremation

Burial Vault None Cement or Steel Cement, Steel or
None

Cemetery Natural with no Heavily landscaped Not applicable
Appearance chemicals or and manicured with
pesticides chemicals and
pesticides used on
lawn

Gravesite 3.5 ft. depth, 3 ft. 6ft. depth, 4 ft. Approximately 18
width, length width, 9.5 ft. length inches deep
determined by
height of deceased
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Types of Green Cemeteries
1. Hybrid Burial Ground
● Conventional cemeteries with option for no vault
● No embalming
● Must allow any kind of eco-friendly burial containers
2. Natural Burial Ground
● Adoption of practice and protocols that are energy-conserving, minimize waste
and have no toxic chemicals
● No vault, only burial containers of natural or plant derived materials
● Have a natural appeal
3. Conservation Burial Ground
● All the same regulations of a natural burial ground
● Must also further land conservation
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Green Burial Council

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Green Burial Council c’td.

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Alternative ways to be apart of the Green
Burial initiative: #1 - Bio Urns
- Biodegradable urn designed to grow into a tree
- Lets you grow a tree using the remains of your loved one - “life after death”
- Allows you to choose any tree and their custom moulded urn is produced
without the use of glues or chemical additives
- Degradation of the product is respectful to the environment
- Possibility to plant indoors
- $149

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Alternative #2 - Eternal Reefs

- “Combines a cremation urn, ash scattering, and burial at sea into one
meaningful, permanent environmental tribute to life”
- Is a designed reef made of environmentally-safe cast concrete
- Multiple options to rest with family or individually
- “It’s not so much that they are gone, it’s more like; look what they are doing
now”
- Certified with Green Burial Council

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Alternative #3- Resommation/Bio-cremation

- No acid, burning or boiling
- Instead “The body is reduced, bone fragments are rinsed and the
remaining by-product is a sterile fluid” - fluid sent to water recycling
where it is then filtered, purified and recycled back to the earth (aquifer,
lakes, etc.)
- Thus, zero air emissions compared to traditional flame cremation and
helps promote an environmentally sustainable option
- Silk caskets are used to support family’s desire for a wake that is
rented

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Benefits of a Green Burial

● Peaceful place
● Multiple ways to have green burials
● Cheaper than traditional
● Traditional pre-planned plots are still
available
● GIS jobs can be created
● Natural setting; not severely impacting
natural landscape/environment

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Possible Problems

- No headstone = no location/identifier;
○ “People could carve a stone around the size of a melon with the name
on it”
- Possible soil problems - too rocky (Canadian Shield), soil degradation, etc.
- Groundwater runoff - what is the harm?
- Hard labour as sites are dug mostly by hand
- Burials do occur in the winter - slight extra cost
- No/little maintenance; grass is cut with scythe

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Recommendations for the Municipality of
Highlands East

● Become certified as a provider of Green
Burials under the Green Burial Council as a
Natural Burial Ground
○ Intention of becoming Conservation Burial Ground
● Investigate further suitability based on
cemetery soil composition and possible
effects of water run-off
● Advertise, promote, and educate the
community on the environmental benefits
of a Green Burial
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Thank you!
References

https://greenburialcouncil.org/

http://www.greenburialcanada.ca/

http://www.naturalburialassoc.ca/how-it-works/

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/110030#BK8

http://www.greenburialcanada.ca

https://www.highlandseast.ca

http://www.ecoburials.ca 19