The Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society (HHGBS) formally launched Nov. 28 with 27 people now committed to bringing the environmentally-friendly practice to local cemeteries.

More than 30 people attended the society’s inaugural meeting at the Haliburton United Church to discuss the idea that involves burying the dead using green practices which aim to have bodies degrade as quickly as possible in specialized graveyards or plots. Society founder Terry Moore and Green Burial Society of Canada board member Mark Richardson answered questions and discussed implementation.

Moore said he is pleased about the positive response. He credited it to the efforts of community organizations to raise a sense of environmental stewardship in Haliburton over the past decade.

“People are ready to have a conversation about this and I think people are now prepared to listen,” Moore said.

Environment Haliburton! has developed the idea over the past few months with a working group. Green burials avoid body preservatives and utilize biodegradable caskets and shrouds to make the process more environmentally-friendly. Moore brought the concept forward after his family’s struggles with burying his son, Kyle Moore, in an ecofriendly way during the winter. He presented to local councils earlier this year and they responded supportively.

But Moore identified barriers at the municipal level, such as their worries about cost and winter burials. There are now plans for a workshop in January with an external operator showing municipal staff and policymakers how a green burial could happen in the winter.

“Demonstrate how it’s done in order to address some of the practical considerations that some of the townships have,” Moore said.

Compared to cremation, green burials are more expensive, Richardson said. But he added they are still greener, given the carbon dioxide released into the air when burning bodies.

But the appetite for burials has plummeted. The Cremation Association of North America said the cremation rate in Canada was 72 per cent in 2018.

Moore said convincing lawmakers will take more public awareness.

“There is an interest in this and it’s not just a niche group of people who are in the tree hugger community,” Moore said. “The more conversations we have, I think it helps to build a different cultural norm.”

Sharon Ireland attended and said it was a strong presentation.

“This is an absolutely great alternative to conventional burials,” Ireland said. “We have an awful lot of environmental consciousness in the community towards our wild spaces.”

Moore said green burials can happen if the community shows support.

“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to remove the remaining barriers,” he said.

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