Going Green for Funerals
Near Washington D.C. on what was once farmland, churches are now landlocked and forced to give up the tradition of on-site cemeteries. In fact, only 4 active cemeteries remain for 104 United Methodist churches in the area. Kim Riemland tells us about an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional burials.
(Locator: Middleburg, Virginia)
Rick Dawson, Director, Camp Highroad: "We're in a natural forest, surrounded by beautiful tulip polar trees and oaks and elm and maples."
Welcome to Camp Highroad, a United Methodist campground for the last 62 years. It's a tranquil setting just 30 minutes from Washington D.C. and three years ago, part of it became a green cemetery.
Rick Dawson: "This is the other family tree."
The Reverend Rick Dawson manages this two acres, and the camp. He buried his daughter's ashes under a tree here.
Rick Dawson: "We knew she loved the forest. She actually attended Camp Highroad here so it seemed like this would be a good final resting place for her. "
The EcoEternity forest sits apart from the rest of the camp. Name plaques are placed on the back side of the trees to preserve the feel of the forest. Brad Doan is selecting a place for the ashes of his co-worker.
Brad Doan: "She would like this. Most cemeteries are kind of depressing. Here, you can still reflect on someone's memory and not be sad."
Cremated remains are buried in a biodegradable urn in the drip line of a tree. The practice is more earth-friendly than traditional burial explains EcoEternity president Jack Lowe.
Jack Lowe, President, EcoEternity: "What it takes to make a metal casket&ellipsis; a lot of energy, a lot of materials. Once you bury that in the ground, you're essentially sterilizing that plot of land."
Cost is also a factor. A traditional funeral can run up to $30,000: while you can be cremated and buried at EcoEternity for around $2,000.
Jack Lowe: "People say, 'I'd rather leave all that extra money to my grandchildren than to pour it into the ground.'"
Family trees with 15 spaces lease for $4500. Naturalist Joshua Johns points out that the land will be protected for at least a century to come.
Joshua Johns, Naturalist: "The real danger for these trees is not that the soil doesn't have enough nutrients in it, but that someone's going to come and cut them down and build a Wal-Mart. So, you've done something much more beneficial than fertilizing a tree, you have saved a section of forest."
&ellipsis;a forest full of life cycles. Proceeds keep Highroad open for ministries like summer camp, baptisms, and weddings. Pastors are available to do the internments here too.
Rick Dawson: "So, the tree, as it continues to grow, stands as a living memorial to the people, but also to God's creation."
EcoEternity offers four different green burial sites in the United States. Three of those are located on United Methodist camps sites. For more information, visit ecoeternity.com. For more information on Camp Highroad, visit camphighroad.org.
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