Geocoding dead people
Relatives and friends will require a satellite navigation device to find graves of loved ones in NSW’s first eco-burial site.
The deceased will be buried in biodegradable coffins between gum trees in a protected koala sanctuary.
Reflecting a worldwide trend towards environmentally friendly burials, the site, on bushland attached to Lismore Memorial Park Cemetery in the Northern Rivers region, is due to open on July 1.
“It’s an ideal way of utilising land and helping wildlife and vegetation,” said Kris Whitney, Lismore Council co-ordinator of cemeteries. “We will allow headstones made from natural rock. For coffins, we’d rather people used woven wicker, plantation pine or recycled cardboard.
“A family can walk around the bushland and pick a site. The body can be oriented in any direction. We promise there will be no internments within five metres. We’ll record accurate GPS co-ordinates.”
Families visiting graves would be lent a satellite navigation device, Mr Whitney said.
This will be Australia’s fourth “natural burial site”, all attached to conventional crematoriums. There are existing sites in Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
Darryl Thomas, president of the Australasian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association, said he expected more sites. “It’s taken off overseas and it’s gaining legs over here,” he said. “It’s a sign of the times as people become more concerned about the environment.”
Britain has 228 natural burial sites owned by councils and private businesses, says the Natural Death Centre, which this weekend is hosting a green funeral expo in London.
Environmentalists say conventional funerals and cremations are ecologically damaging because cremations produce greenhouse gases; embalming uses harmful chemicals that can enter soil and waterways; gravestones are made of granite shipped from China; coffins are made from particle board or rainforest timber, held together with poisonous glues, lined with plastic and varnished, which pollutes the land.
Byron Bay celebrant Zenith Virago, who has been organising natural burials for people on their own land for 15 years, welcomed Lismore’s natural burial ground. “The body is full of nutrients,” she said. “Being buried this way provides nutrient for soil and plants and animals.”
Lismore will be charging about $2000 for a natural burial site, rather than $3000 for a conventional one.
Silverwater company LifeArt makes recycled cardboard coffins.
Source: The Sun-Herald