Monday, December 8, 2008

Minnesotans inquiring about 'green' burials

Minnesotans inquiring about 'green' burials
Associated Press
Updated: 12/06/2008 05:14:27 PM CST

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Tradition and laws have kept "green" burials from becoming widespread in Minnesota, but funeral directors say more people are inquiring about them.

"There are people talking about it and people mentioning it," said Mark Benson, funeral director at Benson Funeral Home in St. Cloud. "They've seen the stories. They're talking about it, whether it was something they'd do themselves."

Minnesota state law requires bodies to be embalmed for public viewing, but natural options are available.

Theresa Purcell helped start the Minnesota chapter of Trust for Natural Legacies, which promotes green burial and is looking for suitable land within 45 minutes of the Twin Cities for a natural conservation cemetery.

"The more people learn what it is and the more people learn it's actually an option, we're getting a very strong, positive response from people," she said.

Purcell envisions the cemetery to be 25-30 acres that would also serve as a nature preserve and recreational area, with opportunities for cross-country skiing and birdwatching. People could use the property whether they have loved ones buried there or not, she said.

Green graveyards have also begun in Wisconsin.

In Milwaukee, Forest Home Cemetery set aside three of its 200 acres for green burials this year and Circle Cemetery, an arm of Circle Sanctuary near Barneveld, expanded its one-acre cremains-only cemetery to 20 acres to allow natural burials.

Purcell said she's gotten many calls and e-mails from people interested in the natural cemetery. Some elderly people have said they hope it's open by the time they pass away, she said.
Ken Peterson, president of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association, said he expects the trend toward environmental awareness will affect death practices in Minnesota as it has other areas of society.

People already are asking to use recycled paper for memorial programs and biodegradable containers for graveside flowers, he said.

"I think what we're going to see in our area is different shades of green," Peterson said.

Information from: St. Cloud Times,

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