Sign me up for a green burial, and make it decades from now


I recently attended a viewing and discussion of Dying Green, a short documentary about conservation or “green” burial, which I’d never heard of before.  Here’s the trailer.


I’d always thought burial plots had to look like this:

cemeteryy flicir

During my lifetime, in the U.S., they did, though much earlier in history they looked more like the new conservation burial sites shown below.


But it’s not about creating prettier or more natural sites, though that’s a nice result.  The point is to conserve land.  “Dying Green” tells the story of a small-town South Carolina doctor, Billy Campbell, whose dream being to conserve 1 million acres of land by turning them into preserves for green burial.  And if we have to die anyway, which I understand is the case, we can at least protect some land from development while we’re at it.

Campell launched Memorial Ecosystems in ’96 and it opened the Ramsey Creek Preserve in  1998 as the first “green” cemetery in the U.S.  As the website says, “The preserve was formed to harness the funeral industry for land protection and restoration, to fund non-profits, education, the arts and scientific research, and to provide a less expensive and more meaningful burial option.”

The green burial sites available now in the U.S. are listed here and I see none in Maryland.  But attending the showing of the documentary was Shelley Morhaim who, with her doctor spouse, is working to create one near Baltimore –  Resh Mill Preserve. Seeing what it looks like, I kinda like the idea of ending up there, if I have to contemplate ending up anywhere.

Resh Mill Preserve

There are also immediate environmental impacts of conventional burial and even cremation that can be avoided by using the radical, new-but-really-old method of green burial. Here’s a short run-down of the problems with our conventional, resource-intensive, air-polluting techniques.  Who knew it was such a toxic business?

Cemetery photo credit. 


  1. I had heard about this a little while ago and was shocked about the fact that cremation is worse for the environment than a normal burial. I love the look of the green burial forests. How do they cut through all the roots to get the hole deep enough? But a forest is definitely where I would rather spend eternity.

  2. Malcolm Beck, great teacher of composting of Gardenville in Texas, wrote an essay entitled “Pushing Up Daisies” about the common practice of burial and it’s environmentally unfriendly side effects. He talked about his desire to be composted. I’ve always thought it to be an excellent idea. ~Julie

    How to lay my body to rest

    I would want my body dressed in a white linen or cotton gown. Then, if necessary, held in cold storage until I could be gently placed on a warm bed of compost that no longer has a foul odor but still microbially active. Then my living relatives and friends could use shovels and buckets to cover me with a thick blanket of more warm active compost. During this laying and covering process the religious rituals would be preformed.

    This composting process could be done in a container decorated with silver and gold. For proper composting aeration, the bottom, sides and top are made of fine mesh stainless wire cloth. This container could be placed on a trailer or have wheels of it’s own. It could be pulled behind white prancing horses or a shiny black automobile.

    At the location my body is to be returned to nature such as, my farm, gardens or meadow, the container will be parked until my body is completely consumed. Then the container would be opened so my elements and energy can be distributed over the land to start the timeless cycling journey through higher and higher forms of life. Then finally, once again, the highest form of life.

    Malcolm Beck

  3. My great uncle died just a few years ago and had previously instructed that he wanted a green burial. The funeral directors here had never heard of it and didn’t really know what to do. He did not get his wish, but I’m happy to see that people are becoming more aware of options and what exactly a “traditional” burial means. As far as I’m concerned, turn me into compost.

  4. After my hear attack, I looked into it. There are three places in western Washington state that do green burials. I’ve made my wishes clear to my husband and children.

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