Kevany makes lifestyle choices she feels will cause the least amount of harm to the earth and to align with her values she’d like a green burial, allowing her body to naturally decompose.
“I try to use the least amount of resources and contribute the least amount of toxic chemicals,” she said. “I don’t want to add toxins to the earth in death.”
The Green Burial Council sets the standard in North America and states this type of burial must further environmental and societal aims such as protecting worker health, reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources and preserving habitat.
This means using no toxic chemicals for embalming, using shrouds and/or caskets made of fully biodegradable materials, and protection of the natural ecosystem. These burial grounds look much like the land did before it became a cemetery, with only plants and rocks above the bodies.
Green cemeteries can be found in Ontario and British Columbia, but not yet in Nova Scotia, although there are a couple with areas set aside to be more natural than what is usually seen. More than 200 green cemeteries exist in the United Kingdom.
“We try to sanitize things so much there’s a disconnect from nature,” said Kevany. “I think being buried among birds and trees seems right. If it isn’t available here I might choose to be buried in Ontario.”
Millions of people have been buried in caskets that include several pounds of steel and wood treated with chemicals. Wooden liners, - not required by law, but preferred by most local cemeteries - are often used to hold the shape of the grave. With green burials no liners are used, but after settling takes place indigenous plants may be added.
There is no requirement that human bodies be embalmed and viewings can still take place if a body is kept refrigerated. Humans cannot legally be buried on private property unless it has been used as a cemetery for many years.
Cremation is now just as popular as burial and some people feel it’s a more environmentally friendly choice, but large amounts of energy are required to burn a body.
“I choose food that creates the least amount of harm (only raw, plant-based foods) and I often use my bike to get around,” added Kevany. “I want to live within my principles and I want to die within my principles.”
Kevany is a member of the Living Earth Council and is considering arranging a local screening of A Will for the Woods, a film about a man searching for a final resting place who learns about green burial.
* * * *
Toward a green site
A small group of people is working toward the development of green burial sites in Nova Scotia.
Sites in Tatamagouche and the South Shore are being considered but funding is needed to proceed with development of the land (water table testing, access for development, plot planning, etc).
Dawn Carson, a Halifax resident, has set up a GoFundMe page for the development and has been talking to people at the Ecology Action Centre about doing the work in connection with them.
“I assist people with personal health care directives and this often comes up in conversation,” she said. “From an environmental point of view it makes the most sense to me to return nutrients to the soil.”
The GoFundMe page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/GreenBurialNS