Eco-friendly burials

People who care about the environment can help the planet even after their death. A burial at Cobourg means a simple wooden box in a grave dug by hand, with wildflowers to mark the spot.

Cobourg Union Cemetery is the first cemetery in Ontario to offer eco-friendly burials. The cemetery is an hour east of Toronto, in a meadow beside a creek. Machines, monuments and manicured lawns are prohibited. Pesticides are not used; weeds are hand-picked, and that's the only maintenance.

At Cobourg, they don't put anything into the body or the ground, except what's harmless and biodegradable. The body is wrapped in a shroud and placed into an eco-friendly casket with no metal or synthetics; poplar is a good choice, as it's a fast-growing tree. After burial, the people at Cobourg don't disturb the ecosystem, and they do everything they can to save energy.

There are some other cemeteries that provide green burials, but Cobourg goes one step farther: they strive to protect the environment even after the burial. They don't allow headstones or concrete vaults, but a shrub orĀ  some native wildflowers can be planted at the grave. There is also the option of placing a small commemorative plaque on a fieldstone in the meadow.

Traditional burials use up too many resources, and they contaminate the ground with metals, concrete and toxic chemicals. Cremation isn't good for the environment either; it needs around 27 litres of natural gas.

There are different kinds of eco-burials and environmental funerals, and their eco-friendliness varies. If you have the burial within 24 hours of death, there is no need for embalming. However, there are non-toxic, botanical embalming fluids available, if you wish to have a visitation.

According to Kristopher Bouck of Cobourg. "The simplest, most eco-friendly funeral would be a graveside service with no visitation and the body transported in a fuel-efficient utility van rather than a gas-thirsty hearse."

Some people choose to have an eco-friendly burial because they care about the environment. Others might choose this option because they want a simple and inexpensive burial. The simpler the funeral, the less expensive it is.

At Cobourg, immediate interment with a graveside service costs $2,265. A traditional funeral, with visitation the day before, would cost $4,745. There is also a big difference in casket prices; a plain wooden box is around $500, while a solid oak, metal-trimmed casket is $5,570.

While the cost of a funeral might be a factor in choosing the eco-friendly option, most of the people who make the decision to have this kind of burial are preplanners who are concerned with the welfare of the environment.

Source: Vyhnak, Carola. "Leaving no mark when your time comes." Toronto Star. 25 Aug 2009. 26 Aug 2009.