Part of the green burial section of Yates Memorial services in Parksville. (Cloe Logan photo)

Lifelong environmentalist in Parksville touts benefits of ‘green burials’

‘Society doesn’t even talk about death, people are always shocked when I mention that I bought this’

Barbara Ziegler once planned on being buried standing up in a pine box, but now that ‘green burials’ are available in Parksville her plans have changed.

Now, to her delight, she can be laid to rest without a coffin. Like the 10 burials that have already taken place at Yates Memorial Services in Parksville, she will one day have an unmarked plot surrounded by wildflowers.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my life as well, so it was something I was prepared to deal with,” said Ziegler, while talking about the idea of having to think about death while planning her green burial. “I turned 60 and thought, I’m going to start getting all my ducks in a row.”

Bradd Tuck, the general manager at Yates, said they’ve had people from as far as Vernon and the Sunshine Coast sign up for plots — places where the service isn’t available.

“Everybody has a unique path that brings them to the decision,” said Tuck. “Environmentally, it’s the best option available.”

The environmental aspect is the main reason Ziegler wants to be buried in this way. The chemicals from embalming and the emissions from cremation never sat quite right with her.

READ MORE: Cemetary bylaws in Qualicum Beach face changes

“I’m a lifelong environmentalist,” she said, in her cozy Parksville home, with the fireplace burning behind her. “I researched it and found out that being cremated is actually not that great because the amount of fuel and the off-gassing and all of that stuff that happens, so while you take up less space, which is nice, it seemed like this was the better way.”

It’s a pretty simple process, said Tuck. The deceased are wrapped in a shroud or casket made up of biodegradable fibres (such as wicker or willow) and then buried a few feet underground. Soil is topped up over time, and then eventually planted over. He points to one plot, where someone chose to have a fern from their garden planted over them.

“We either allow the family to plant over it, or we plant with grasses and wildflowers,” he said.

There’s no headstones at the burial site, which is in a fenced-off area beside the regular graves at Yates, but rather a large rock with engravings of the names of the people laid to rest there.

“You can’t have marked graves, so there’s a stone placed in the garden nearby that will have a list of names,” said Tuck. “The rock is from Nanoose and engraved here… traditionally headstones come from China, Quebec, Ontario, where there’s big mines, so that’s part of the impact as well is bringing the monument in.”

The price of a basic green burial is approximately $4,000, compared to a traditional burial that starts at approximately $7,000. The main savings come from the lack of casket and concrete liner. Tuck said after the person dies, in most circumstances they can keep the body for about two weeks before the burial, to allow time for family and friends to attend.

“Society doesn’t even talk about death, people are always shocked when I mention that I bought this,” said Ziegler. “I don’t expect to be here forever, it’s coming, we might as well face it.”

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