Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dust to dust (and no more) Limington’s green cemetery

by Cliff White, Staff Writer, Gorham Westbrook Gazette, November 16, 2007

Peter McHugh rides his all-terrain vehicle across the 2.1 acres of 150-acre property he has recently devoted to creating Maine’s first green cemetery.

He points out prospective locations for burial sites – little spaces of cleared land marked only by brown fallen leaves amidst a forest of mostly bare trees. . . .

Maine law allows small family graveyards no larger than a quarter-acre without the need for a permit, as long as no bodies are buried within 25 rods (413 feet) from the nearest land used for public recreation or potable water source. However, some years ago, McHugh
decided he wanted to create a cemetery that gives others the option to be buried in a more natural fashion than otherwise available.

“I wanted to give people the option to be buried in the way they prefer,” McHugh
says. “If they prefer a more environmentally friendly, less costly method of burial, then they should have that option.”

The town of Limington
has no local ordinances regarding the development of commercial cemeteries, so McHugh needed only to apply to the state. In September, McHugh registered his cemetery – named the Cedar Brook Burial Ground after a local topographical feature – with the Department of Health and Human Services. McHugh says it took only about 10 days after the submission of his application to receive notice of his registration as a cemetery. . . .

McHugh
allows customers to choose their own space in his cemetery, and to mark the spot with any local stone, which he says he will allow to be engraved. He says he will allow unlimited visitations by anyone interested. . . .

“Last year 22,500 cemeteries across the US buried 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, 104,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 30-plus million board feet of hardwoods and 1.6 million tons of concrete,” Christensen says. “In purely ecological terms, how we bury our dead is unsustainable.”

Mark Harris, author of the book “Grave Matters,” an examination of alternative methods of burial, said green cemeteries are becoming more popular in America because they are easier on the environment. . . .

Green burials can also help save a different kind of green – the kind found in people’s wallets.

“Between charges for embalming, a metal casket, a vault, a headstone, the cemetery charges for a plot and the opening and closing of a grave, and the fee for perpetual care and maintenance of the gravesite
, funeral costs today can easily run $10,000 or more,” Harris said. “Green burials, in contrast, run in the low thousands of dollars, and can be less depending on personal choices. So the cost differential is huge.”

McHugh
says saving on funeral costs is a significant factor in choosing a green burial ground.

“It’s a simpler, less costly way to bury your loved one,” McHugh
says. “Traditional funerals can get very expensive. I wanted to give people another option.”

For complete article

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