City of Lethbridge becoming first municipality in Alberta to offer green burials

The City of Lethbridge is now officially offering a more sustainable burial option.

They’re called green burials and the city says they minimize the impact on the environment by allowing a body to decompose in the earth naturally.

City officials said Lethbridge is the first municipality in Alberta to offer the more sustainable option.

“In 2011, the city did a cemetery master plan, and it was identified at that time that we should be having some sort of green burial section to offer our community, so I guess 10 years later, we finally have one,” Hiroshi Okubo, the city’s cemeteries manager, said on Thursday.

Okubo said consultants from the Green Burial Society of Canada conducted the cemetery master plan.

According to the city, for many people the green burial concept combines the spiritual integrity of the past with the environmental ideals of the present.

In Lethbridge, green burials will take place in the Royal View Cemetery and there’s already a waiting list with a dozen people on it.

Okubo said he expects that list to get longer in the coming months as more people become aware of this new burial option and receive more information about it.

“The concept is pretty much the same size as any plot we have in the cemetery,” Okubo said. “It’s just that we’ll be digging graves shallower so that the body can naturally decompose.”

A green burial must adhere to a number of principles, including that it should involve no embalming of the body and that the body should be wrapped in a biodegradable cloth like a shroud or a biodegradable casket.

As for costs, they’re pretty similar to a traditional burial.

“There will still be costs associated with the cemetery that are very similar to that of a burial,” said Travis Zentner, the general manager of Cornerstone Funeral Home in Lethbridge.

“You’ll still have the same cost for the plot, just without that continuous foundation,” Zentner said. “You’ll still have the opening and the closing of the gravesite, and you’ll still have the lowering devices for the grave to be set up.”

The space at the Royal View Cemetery will accommodate close to 1,400 green burial sites.

In lieu of individual headstones, a memorial at the cemetery will be set up where simple inscriptions can be made by loved ones.

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