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Dying Green at the Reel and Meal

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I recently attended the Reel and Meal 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 cemeteries had to look like this:



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.a3

Campbell 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.


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?

Also speaking to the Reel and Meal crowd after the movie was Elizabeth Knox of Takoma Park.  She’s the founder of Crossings: Caring for our Own, focused on “the healing power of caring for our own departed.” She advocates for, provides, trains and supports others regarding home funerals and green burials.  Check out that website; powerful, thought-provoking ideas.

Cemetery photo credit.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

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