Green burial options become more accessible in Alberta

Green burial options become more accessible in Alberta

It was a conversation with an old girlfriend more than six decades ago that prompted Ben Volman to take a closer look at a green burial as a way to handle his remains after he dies.

“Why not do it the natural way?” he asked. “I’d like to go quiet like.”

Volman said it was Mary Ellis, that ex-girlfriend, who got him thinking about what he truly wanted after his death.

Volman has purchased a green plot at Rosehill Cemetery, deep in Edmonton’s southwest, one of the few green burial sites in the Edmonton area.

“Why stick concrete in the earth?” he asked. “In a green burial, you go the natural way. You let the worms do the work. Give them a feast.”

According to the Green Burial Society of Canada, there are five pillars to a green burial. There can’t be any embalming used to preserve the body and the deceased body must be either placed directly into the earth, or placed in a biodegradable shroud or casket.

There cannot be individual memorials or grave markers either. Instead, there is a communal gravestone placed at the site.

The cemeteries also must optimize their land-use, like using temporary roads that eventually can be removed and turned into grave sites, for example.

Rosehill has space for nearly 900 green graves as part of The Meadows of Rosehill, a one-acre plot of land at the back of its site.

“You’re essentially mitigating your footprint on the area that, in 10 years, people virtually wouldn’t know that there’s a cemetery,” said Marc Turgeon, Rosehill Cemetery manager. “The idea is that the grounds return to the state of a meadow.”

Rosehill Cemetery is one of the few cemeteries in the province to offer green burials, however, several municipalities in the province, including the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary, are working on plans for their own green burial sites.

People are buried in the order they die, as to disrupt the earth as little as possible. For someone who is really interested in their loved one’s exact whereabouts in the cemetery, GPS coordinates are available.

That’s not a problem for Volman. He knows who will be next to him when he dies. Sitting on one of the shelves in his home are two small urns with the remains of two special pets.

“My dogs. They’ll come with me,” Volman said through tears while pointing them out. “Two good friends.”

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At Rosehill Cemetery we would be honoured to help you celebrate the life of your loved one and provide them with a peaceful final resting place. Contact us today by calling (780) 434-5433 or by filling out the form below, and let's discuss how we can best honour their wishes. 

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