The ultimate green burial: no embalming, no casket
Funeral firms call the burials natural and environmentally friendly. The method also cuts many of the costs associated with burials.
By TAMARA EL-KHOURY, Saint Petersburg Times Staff Writer
Published January 8, 2008
Now there's a way for the truly environmentally conscious to go green even after death.
Charles Scalisi III, the owner of Eternal Rest Memories Park and Funeral Home is offering what he calls Green Burial, where the deceased is placed directly in a grave sans casket. Scalisi also offers biodegradable caskets.
Scalisi said this method is natural and cost effective. It also cuts many costs associated with a traditional funeral, including embalming $445 and a casket ($1,000 and up).
He's been working on the concept for a year and found that the use of a casket or vault is not required by law. Neither is embalming.
"Right now the community, society, is squeezed on spending a lot on a funeral," Scalisi said.
A green burial space costs $1,495. Spaces are two deep, meaning one person is buried in the bottom space, while the top space can hold either another person, the cremated remains of 10 people or a memorial tree. The owner of a bottom space can buy the top space for a reduced price.
An electric marker is buried with each grave. Using a device similar to what is used to find underground utility poles, Scalisi can scan an area and find the exact location of an individual's remains.
No one has been buried yet in the area of the cemetery Scalisi calls "Greenland." He is just introducing the concept to the public but thinks it will take off.
"Everybody I've spoken to about it loves it," he said.
Diana Marr, director of the state's Division of Funeral Cemetery and Consumer Services said she has read about green burial in trade magazines. The department doesn't keep track of how many cemeteries in the state offer green burial as an option but Marr said there are no rules prohibiting the practice.
Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve in the Florida Panhandle has been offering green burials since 2002.
Since then, 20 people have been buried there, said John Wilkerson, who formed the nonprofit organization with his brother. They inherited the land, which now consists of 350 acres of natural preserve and 70 acres of cemetery.
"Everything is a cycle and the cycle of nonsustainable funerals has peaked and is on its way down," Wilkerson said.
He said he believes the practice of green burials will become more popular for several reasons: it's better for the environment, more affordable, more spiritual and appeals to the growing aversion to embalming.
"We have people coming here from Tampa, from Miami and that doesn't make sense," Wilkerson said. "They should have their own local green cemeteries. There should be one every 100 miles all across the United States."
Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4181.
TO LEARN MORE:
To find out more about green burials at Eternal Rest Memories Park and Funeral Home in Dunedin visit www.greenburialusa.com.
Learn more about the Glendale Nature Preserve at www.glendalenaturepreserve.org.
By the numbers:
22,500 cemeteries across the United States
Each year they bury approximately:
827,060 gallons of embalming fluid
90,272 tons of steel
2,700 tons of copper and bronze
30-million-plus board feet of hardwoods from caskets
1.6-million tons of reinforced concrete
14,000 tons of steel from vaults