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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Q5: Burial alternative gaining popularity

  • Steve Nicely is board president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Kansas City, one of about 90 affiliated organizations in the U.S. functioning as a consumers' union for people dealing with the funeral industry.


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  • Steve Nicely is board president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Kansas City, one of about 90 affiliated organizations in the U.S. functioning as a consumers' union for people dealing with the funeral industry. He is also a retired Kansas City Star journalist.
    1. Mount Muncie Cemetery is going to begin offering green burials. Can you explain what green burials are, how they work, and why someone would choose this type of burial over a traditional one?
    Green burial, also termed natural burial, is how most of the world buries its dead today and how our culture did it until the Civil War.  It involves burying the body in the ground in a shroud or other biodegradable container such as wood, cardboard or wicker.  It does not involve embalming, use of a metal casket or concrete grave liners.  It's a natural "dust-to-dust, earth-to-earth" process.  When in contact with the earth, the body decomposes into compost, feeds vegetation and rejoins the cycle of life.   
    2. Green cemetery proponents say the cemeteries preserve land in its natual setting of fields and forests and doubles as a wildlife habitat. What are some of the other advantages of green burials?
    Cemeteries dedicated to natural burial can be be used by the living as well as the dead.  
    Think of walking  and running trails through forests or fields of prairie grass.
    Think of retreats from civilization, parks, gaming fields.  Why not?  I don't think the dead will object very much.  
     
    3. Green burials don’t allow the use of embalming chemicals, metal caskets and concrete vaults. Where does Kansas stand when it comes to the prohibition of these traditional burial techniques?
    Kansas does not require embalming, caskets or vaults.  In fact, Kansas does not require the use of funeral homes or burial in a cemetery if you live on acreage. It's the way of all our ancestors when the body was washed, dressed and laid out in the parlor, then buried on the back 40.  It would take a lot of preplanning to arrange it, but it can still be done.  Personally, I would find a cooperative funeral director to assist with paperwork, logistics and other practicalities.
     
    4. Are green burials less expensive than traditional burials, and if so, why haven’t they become more popular over the last 20 years?
    Regarding cemetery costs, the price of a vault is saved.  Regarding funeral home costs, the prices of embalming and a metal casket are saved.  There are profits in those items, so expect resistance from providers.  Mount Muncie Cemetery is only the second major cemetery in the region to offer natural burial, something our board has advocated for five or six years.  It joins the city-owned and operated Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence in offering the service.  We were involved in the planning for Oak Hill and are delighted that Mount Muncie is joining this trend.  As with cremation, when the demand rises, the services will follow.
    Page 2 of 2 - 5. What are the greatest benefits for an individual who chooses a green burial and how would a person go about arranging one?
    Some will say saving Mother Earth from the contamination of concrete vaults, steel caskets and caustic embalming fluids is the greatest benefit, not to mention the chemicals and fuel emissions involved in perpetual cemetery lawn care.  Others will say there is something spiritual about the cycle of life on this planet. They like the idea of rejoining that cycle as soon as possible after death.  Leavenworth County is fortunate it now has the option of natural burial at Mount Muncie.
    — Rimsie McConiga

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