Green burials ‘beginning of a community-wide project’
By Vanessa Balintec
Terry Moore, a member of Environment Haliburton, appealed to Algonquin Highlands council at their meeting last week to offer all-year green burial options for residents. After the death of his son Kyle Moore, the Moore family could not find adequate options within the municipality to honour their son’s request for an environmentally sensitive burial.
Existing bylaws do not permit burials, green or otherwise, to take place between November and April.
Many don’t know green burials are an option, Moore said. This method of burial is known for being a sustainable option with its lack of preserving chemicals and emphasis on biodegradable caskets, minimal landscaping of grave sites, restoration of grave sites with native plants, and alternative means of commemoration.
“There’s a lack of availability of green burials in many places, including in many places in northern Ontario,” said Moore. “We have an incredible lack of knowledge of the environmental footprint that traditional burials have.”
Traditional burial methods can be of harm to the environment. Bodies are often embalmed, put into treated and sometimes non-native wooden caskets, and lowered into concrete, steel or fibreglass vaults that are very slow to degrade. These vaults help maintain a neat landscaping surface, which is often covered with concrete headstones and neatly-trimmed, sometimes pesticide-treated grass.
Meanwhile, the popular alternative, cremation, involves use of fossil-fuel powered, high-temperature furnaces that release greenhouse gases.
With help from Environment Haliburton, Moore is garnering interest in creating a Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society to work with the townships to create hybrid green burial sections (green burials used on the same grounds as traditional burials) within cemeteries.
Moore requested the township review existing cemetery bylaws to identify and remove barriers for green burials, designate land in cemeteries for green burials, and appoint a representative to sit on a Green Burial Advisory Committee to be made up of members from the new green burial society and other related parties.
Mayor Carol Moffatt says the future of a municipal representative on the committee is uncertain until research has been done by staff.
“Your message and request has been heard loud and clear,” said Moffatt.
“We can’t make a lot of commitments until our staff do the research, but because of the initiative you launched and the interest that there is, it’s on everyone’s radar. It’s in the works,” said Moffatt to Moore.
According to Moore, along with the lack of availability, the lack of knowledge about green burials is one of the biggest obstacles.
“I know nothing about green burials,” said Councillor Julia Shortreed. “My husband passed away six or seven years ago – it was never mentioned by anyone. I would have done it 100 per cent if I had known about it.”
The council knew this was a popular topic across the community and other municipalities.
“It’s apparent from the presentation on Tuesday there’s a substantial interest in following through with this,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen. “Knowing this was coming up, I heard comments across the county that I just see there is a strong interest.”
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux thanked Moore for his presentation.
“On a personal level, green burial is my choice,” said Dailloux. “It is what I will be doing. I will be delighted if indeed the county finds a way to bring it to Haliburton. You’ve got my moral support, 100 per cent.”
Moore pointed to St. Stephen’s Cemetery on Buckslide Road as a potential green burial pilot section. He asked council to consider putting a temporary hold on the land as investigations and review of green burials take place.
“This is the very beginning of, really a community-wide project,” said Moffatt.
The council supported the initiative. Council will review green burials and take green burial options into consideration when reviewing and considering future amendments of the cemetery bylaw, and the northern-most section of St. Stephen’s cemetery will be put on temporary hold, as requested