New options available for Vermonters seeking green burials

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:54 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - An increasing number of Vermont cemeteries are allowing so-called green burials following the passage of a law several years ago codifying the practice.

The green burial movement has been growing in New England and parts of Canada for several years, according to the group Vermont Funeral Resources and Education. It’s another option for people exploring end-of-life decisions, giving the choice to bury loved ones in the ground naturally rather than having them embalmed. And with 15 cemeteries in Vermont now offering land for green burials, more and more Vermonters are reserving their plots.

“My whole family is signed on. We are going to be placed in the same area. I really like the idea that it’s completely natural. No toxins will go into the earth, or into the air, to help preserve our Earth,” said Beth McKinney of Brattleboro.

She says the area is Higher Ground Conservation Burial, five acres that are under conservation by the Manitou Project for this specific purpose and specializes in natural burial. Higher Ground’s Michael Mayer says it has taken four years to get established after working with the town of Newfane and the Vermont Land Trust. Mayer says they want to give people the opportunity a choice to connect with loved ones and the land. “What’s exciting about the green burial movement is being able to educate for this opportunity to bring people back to the ground in ways that are consistent with their own values of ecology and sustainability,” he said.

Natural burials don’t use embalming fluid or the traditional casket and burial vault. Instead, families place their loved ones right in the ground in a natural wooden casket or wrapped in biodegradable cloth. The marker is usually native rock.

“I think people are looking for a more natural, environmentally-friendly way of leaving the planet. We are looking at sequestering the nutrients in our body rather than emitting those as greenhouse gasses -- which is what happens with cremation processes,” said Lee Webster with Vermont Funeral Resources and Education.

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