Pushing up daisies: Green burials coming to Calgary

Plans for Calgary program coming with opening of new southeast cemetary later this year

Calgary's Burnsland Cemetery. CITY OF CALGARY

Those who go green in this life will soon be able to in the afterlife thanks to a new program being offered by the City of Calgary.

When the city opens the new Southeast Cemetery later this year, they will be offering a program for green burials — a burial process that involves minimal environmental impact.

The new southeast cemetery, the first to be built in Calgary since 1940, will be east of Ralph Klein Park.

CITY OF CALGARY

Coun. Druh Farrell said it’s a program she’s excited the city will begin offering, given the positive impacts it can have on the environment.

“I love the idea — I’ve been reading about green burials for years and have been asking our cemeteries department how we are doing with world trends,” said Farrell.

“I think that’s what I’m hearing from people, they want choices that are closer to nature rather than burning significant greenhouse gases or pumping their bodies with chemicals at the end of life. They like the idea of going back to the earth, going back to nature. We all will die, and a lot of people are thinking about it.”

Green burials are chemical free

Jeff Hagel, president of Calgary’s McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes said while green burials have been around for hundreds of years, the desire for them seems to be picking up more and more.

A green burial doesn’t use chemicals during embalming and caskets are often selected without stains or varnishes. The chemicals prevent the body from decomposing.

“It’s gaining in popularity since the inception of some cemeteries that are definitely greener,” said Hagel, who added that Edmonton and Lethbridge bringing forth similar services have advanced the conversation.

 “It’s wonderful for the city to see more people talking about burial and more people talking about setting aside land or park space for burial.”

In these green spaces, Hagel said they’re free of headstones or monuments opting instead for treed areas and parkway. Some of the green caskets used include ones made out of wicker or seagrass, or unbleached, unfinished caskets.

According to the Calgary Co-operative Memorial Society, the cremation of a 68 kg body that contains 65 percent water requires 100 MJ of thermal energy before any combustion takes place. That, the society said, is the equivalent of three cubic metres of natural gas, or three litres of fuel oil.

Farrell said green burials are just one example of how more and more people are thinking about going green.

“People are concerned about their impact on the environment — and we all should be,” she said.

“So, when they’ve looked at end of life choices, there aren’t many. It’s important that we keep up to date with the way the world is going.”

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