Saturday, December 13, 2008

Green Burials in British Columbia

Stephen Olson of Royal Oak Burial Park
There is a growing interest in Green burials, but a lack of Green Cemeteries in many areas currently prevents people from choosing this option. Most cemeteries require outer burial containers to prevent the ground from settling after burial. Without these containers, deep furrows would develop on the grounds as caskets break down and the soil settles. These depressions prevent problems for groundskeeping at traditional cemeteries, but are not an issue for green cemeteries where a much less manicured look is desired.
For those who choose to be buried without embalming, casket, or vault, the expediture of fossil fuels to transport one's remains hundreds of miles to a green cemetery can be seen as an inadequate solution.
Residents of Victoria, BC will soon have a green burial option as Royal Oak Burial Park in Saanich opens a green section to the cemetery there. This area of BC is one of the most beautiful and scenic in the world, and so, it makes perfect sense that residents will appreciate the opportunity to be buried in ways that they feel are harmonious with nature. Here is an excerpt from the Victoria Times Colonist about the green option in Saanich.

"As far as I know, we are the first in Canada in terms of being operational," said Stephen Olson, manager of the 55-hectare non-profit cemetery.
Royal Oak has set aside about one-eighth of a hectare on a pie-shaped site for green burial, a practice increasingly popular in Europe and offered at some U.S. cemeteries. Human remains are buried without embalming and decompose naturally. Biodegradable shrouds and caskets are used.
Spiritual beliefs, environmental concerns and lower costs all influence the choice for a green burial, Olson said. Green burial is not only considered an alternative to traditional burials but to cremations, because of concerns about climate change.
The idea of adding a green burial service at Royal Oak was sparked by two Nanaimo women, who approached cemetery officials in 1999, Olson said. When a new master plan was later drawn up, it incorporated green burial plans and provincial approval was obtained.
Phones ring steadily from citizens asking about the service and the funeral industry is watching, Olson said. "We are fully prepared to share our expertise with other operators."
The first green burial at Royal Oak took place Nov. 6, for a woman who was a dedicated environmentalist and who chose the green option, he said. A second interment took place yesterday afternoon.
By planting native trees, shrubs and wildflowers over the graves, the site will eventually return to its natural state. About 28 hectares remain to be developed at the burial park and more green burial sites are planned, Olson said.
No grave markers are allowed. Instead, space is allotted on several basalt boulders with flattened surfaces. "The memorials for people will be the tree or shrub that they plant on the grave, so the whole site will be a living memorial," Olson said.

-for the full article from the Victoria Times Colonist, visit


Anonymous said...

This article should be referring to Victoria (BC's capital) on Vancouver Island, Victoria Island is in the Arctic the last time I checked.

Patrick McNally said...


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