Green Burials

Funerals the latest to hop on the eco-friendly bandwagon

For all those who drive Priuses, swear by compact florescent light bulbs, and turn off the juice when they leave public restrooms, their love for the environment and all that is eco-friendly can now extend to their grave.

A cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas is setting a corner of 50 plots aside for "green" burials, a trend that is catching on all across the green-obsessed country. For the dearly (and tree hugging) departed, the plots at Oak Hill Cemetery will have natural rocks instead of polished headstones and biodegradable caskets, and the bodies won't be embalmed before burial. Don't even think about laying down a bouquet of fake flowers—only green grass and wildflowers here.

Although green burials have been offered here since January, the cemetery just sold its first plot. They expect demand to steadily grow, however, and are prepared to expand the area from a third of an acre to five or 10 acres in coming years.

Unlike most eco-friendly practices, green funerals actually cost 25 to 75 percent less than traditional ones. The process does come with added challenges, however, such as digging a grave without heavy machinery. This cemetery hasn't gone all the way yet—loved ones are encouraged to help city staff hand shovel the first one-third of the grave before the machines come in and finish the job.

Joe Sehee, director of the Green Council, told the AP that people are beginning to doubt that preserving bodies using vaults and embalming is the decent thing to do.

''I think people are finding solace in the ashes to ashes idea again,'' Sehee said. ''It allows people to befriend death on some level, to say 'Let's let go and return naturally, not try to impede the process any more.''

If having a green burial means even my nagging eco-conscience can rest in peace, sign me up.

—Morgan Keys

More cemeteries offering eco-friendly burials (AP)

Image credit: skatoolaki