Green burial options become more accessible in Alberta

Click to play video: 'Green burials becoming more and more popular'
Green burials becoming more and more popular
WATCH ABOVE: More people are starting to think about what happens to their bodies after they die. Quinn Ohler takes a closer look at the growing popularity of green burials. – Dec 18, 2019

It was a conversation with an old girlfriend more than six decades ago that prompted Ben Volman to take a closer look at a green burial as a way to handle his remains after he dies.

“Why not do it the natural way?” he asked. “I’d like to go quiet like.”

Volman said it was Mary Ellis, that ex-girlfriend, who got him thinking about what he truly wanted after his death.

“(She said) funerals are for the living. The dead don’t care,” Volman said. “That stayed with me.”

Volman has purchased a green plot at Rosehill Cemetery, deep in Edmonton’s southwest, one of the few green burial sites in the Edmonton area.

READ MORE: Conversations change around death, dying and funeral planning: ‘It’s not going to bring on your demise any sooner’

“Why stick concrete in the earth?” he asked. “In a green burial, you go the natural way. You let the worms do the work. Give them a feast.”

Story continues below advertisement

According to the Green Burial Society of Canada, there are five pillars to a green burial. There can’t be any embalming used to preserve the body and the deceased body must be either placed directly into the earth, or placed in a biodegradable shroud or casket.

READ MORE: A green death: Is human composting or natural burial for you?

There cannot be individual memorials or grave markers either. Instead, there is a communal gravestone placed at the site.

The cemeteries also must optimize their land-use, like using temporary roads that eventually can be removed and turned into grave sites, for example.

The organization is also advocating to allow for the re-use of graves.

READ MORE: More bodies in single graves among sustainability solutions for Vancouver cemetery

Rosehill has space for nearly 900 green graves as part of The Meadows of Rosehill, a one-acre plot of land at the back of its site.

“You’re essentially mitigating your footprint on the area that, in 10 years, people virtually wouldn’t know that there’s a cemetery,” said Marc Turgeon, Rosehill Cemetery manager. “The idea is that the grounds return to the state of a meadow.”

READ MORE: The need for funerals connects us all

Rosehill Cemetery is one of the few cemeteries in the province to offer green burials, however, several municipalities in the province, including the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary, are working on plans for their own green burial sites.

Story continues below advertisement

“The environment is talked about more and more,” Turgeon said. “A lot of people that are good stewards of the environment — this is just taking it one step further for them.”

People are buried in the order they die, as to disrupt the earth as little as possible. For someone who is really interested in their loved one’s exact whereabouts in the cemetery, GPS coordinates are available.

That’s not a problem for Volman. He knows who will be next to him when he dies. Sitting on one of the shelves in his home are two small urns with the remains of two special pets.

“My dogs. They’ll come with me,” Volman said through tears while pointing them out. “Two good friends.”

Sponsored content