‘Green cemetery’ proposed


ORRINGTON (AP) – The state’s first “green” cemetery has been proposed for 14 acres of private land comprised of fields and woods.

The concept calls for the natural landscape to remain largely undisturbed with graves marked only by simple, flat native stones.

Bodies would either forgo embalming or would be embalmed with special fluids. Caskets must be made of wood or other biodegradable materials.

The Auburn-based Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine, which supports the project, briefed town planners last week.

“It’s an environmentally friendly cemetery where everything that goes in (the ground) is biodegradable,” said Richard Harriman, Orrington code enforcement officer. “That means (biodegradable) wooden caskets, and if you don’t want a wooden casket, you can go in wrapped in Grandma’s rug or as ashes.”

Peter Neal, spokesman for the Maine Funeral Directors Association, said the proposal would create an alternative to conventional burials.

Those burials often involve embalming, metal caskets and concrete or steel vaults.

“Some people prefer a (traditional) burial, and some people prefer a natural burial, and some people prefer a burial at sea,” he said.

The natural-burial movement is in its infancy in the United States, where the first green cemetery opened in South Carolina in 1996. Now there are green cemeteries in California, Florida, Texas, Washington and New York, as well.

Typically, there are three types of people who utilize green cemeteries, said Mary Woodsen, board president for Greensprings Natural Cemetery in Newfield, N.Y.

First there are religious — Christians, Jews, Muslims – who want a “dust-to-dust approach,” she said. Then there are people who want something simple. The third group tends to be baby boomers – “the die-hard recyclers,” she said.

The land in Orrington is owned by retired nurse and schoolteacher Ellen Hills, 86, who came up with the idea after reading an AARP article in July 2004.

“I said to myself, ‘That’s exactly what we should do with that land,”‘ she said.

In addition to creating a burial ground, the land her family has owned since the 1800s would be preserved, said Hills, of Solon.

Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-01-24-07 1316EST