/Green Burial: a topic of ongoing conversation 

Green Burial: a topic of ongoing conversation 

By Emily Stonehouse

What impact will you have after you die? During a presentation by the Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society (HHGBS) on Nov. 23 at the Dysart Library, when asked for her reason for interest, one attendee said “I don’t want my legacy to add more poison to the ground.”

The concept of green burial is one that has come to the forefront in recent years. According to the HHGBS website, “green burial practices reflect the fact that death and the birth of new life are central to the functioning of earth’s natural ecosystems.” It is the concept of going back to the natural world in a way that has minimal negative impact on the environment, and maximum outcomes for future natural preservations and growth. 

“Over four million gallons of chemicals go into the ground each year with traditional burials,” said Terry Moore, the president of the HHGBS during his presentation on Nov. 23, “and with cremation, over 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide are put in the air annually.”

While Moore noted that these numbers were specific to the United States, he believes Canada is not far off. With green burial, there is no embalming, it is a direct earth burial, there is a focus on ecological restoration and conservation, and an interest in communal burial sites. While many think that cremation is a more natural option, the amount of toxins it releases into the air indicates that this may not be the case; a concerning statistic considering 70-75% of Haliburton County residents select cremation as their preference. 

Currently, two municipalities are on board with the concept of green burial. Algonquin Highlands has committed to a section dedicated to green burial at the St. Stephen’s Cemetery in Stanhope, and have created a joint committee with the Green Burial Society, which will start populating in January. 

Highlands East has passed a resolution to add green burials to a section of the Deer Lake Cemetery, and Moore hopes this momentum continues with new council members in place. 

The HHGBS presented to the Minden Hills Council in 2019, hoping that they would implement green burial initiatives to their practices within the municipality. “In principle, everyone was on board, it was just a matter of finalizing logistics,” said Moore. 

Yet, between the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in 2020, and the majority of senior staff who initially worked with Moore leaving the municipality, green burial has been put on the backburner in Minden Hills. “I’d love to pick it back up again,” said Moore, who has plans to meet with the township cemetery committee to discuss logistics, “in the past, we discussed looking at Minden land inventory to see if we could make an entirely new space dedicated to green burial. It would be great to discuss this again.” 

Moore intends to let the new Minden Hills council settle into their positions before presenting again, and encouraging them to follow-through with this initiative. “We don’t represent a small, niche group,” he said, “we represent a large group, who want alternatives to traditional burial.” 

For more information on green burials, and specifically the HHGBS, visit www.haliburtongreenburial.ca