Grave Matters: Local site offers green burials

Angela Coffey already has made many decisions about what will happen to her after she dies.

She has the flowers, invitations, catering and music all arranged, her plot and headstone have been purchased, and she wants to go as green as possible when she is buried.

A Belpre resident since 1962, Coffey decided to be environmentally friendly, at first, because she is on a fixed income and on disability and she thought going green would be less expensive.

“Losing my mother, my nephew and my brother was totally devastating to me,” Coffey said. “You have to take responsibility. You’re all you got.”

Only one cemetery in Ohio handles green burials – Foxfield Preserve in Wilmot, in northeast Ohio. The preserve’s website lists 19 funeral homes across the state that have been certified by the Green Burial Council, including Leavitt Funeral Home in Belpre. It is the first provider in West Virginia and southeast Ohio. The Green Burial council is a nonprofit organization that encourages the use of burial to facilitate the restoration, acquisitions and stewardship of natural areas in the U.S.

Leavitt Manager and Funeral Director Dana Fouss said the funeral home has been in the business for 130 years and in the green funeral business for about four years.

“We want to make sure the environment is safe,” Fouss said. “We want to cater to everyone. If that’s what someone wants, that’s what they should have.”

Fouss said he doesn’t foresee it becoming too popular in this area because it is a more traditional area than larger cities or other states.

A green burial, including a visitation, memorial service, embalming, committal service, family car, flower van, lead car and “earthwise memorial package” runs about $4,070.

The Simply Green Package includes a basic green burial, memorial service, committal service, flower van and Earthwise memorial package for about $3,290.

For people who want a green burial, items such as a wicker casket, a simple shroud or special embalming fluid that is more environmentally friendly, cardboard caskets or other item made of materials that are biodegradable are all available.

Most traditional burials use steel, wood, chemical and other non-biodegradable materials in the vaults and caskets.

“A lot of people in the baby boomer generation are starting to make plans,” said Sara Brink, Fixfield Preserves steward. “They are happy to break with convention. They don’t feel the need to be buried in the same way their family was buried.”

In a 2008 study by Kates-Boyleston Publications, funeral industry publishers, the company found 43 percent of those surveyed would consider a green burial.

Brink said the Wilmot facility is starting its fifth year with 200 plots and 50 burials at Foxfield.