EcoWeekend: A FloweringTree

Tree Burials Now Available At Green Lawn Cemetery

Editor’s note: Green Lawn is more than a cemetery. It is known to bird lovers throughout the area as an oasis of important habitat for birds and a prime birding destination. We believe that our readers will find the following information about green burials to be of interest!

Green Lawn Cemetery has long been recognized as an important remnant of native mixed oak forest and urban bird and wildlife oasis, but the cemetery industry has struggled with providing “green” burial options. 

Responsible businesses look for opportunities to be environmentally friendly, especially if those opportunities also give a competitive advantage.  When your business operates in an arboretum and Audubon Important Bird Area, the pressure to be “green” is even greater!

The greenest burial option is often considered to be a “natural” burial in which the body is interred without embalming and wrapped in linen or other natural fiber container.  Two challenges are present with this type of interment.  The first is that specially designed gardens are required from both from a practical and a legal standpoint.  The other is that there is simply not enough demand to make it feasible to create these special gardens (space, after all, is a cemetery’s most valuable asset).

Two years ago Green Lawn offered it’s first option for an environmentally-friendly, final disposition with packages that allowed cremated remains to be spread in our prairie or from a deck over our pond.  While these options were only marginally “green”, they did provide a business reason to keep part of the property planted in prairie.

Green Lawn - Tree Burial Container
A biodegradable container for a tree burial

Now the cemetery has a more environmentally-friendly option – a tree burial!

In this option the family chooses from a selection of native trees and the staff assist in identifying an appropriate space.  The deceased is cremated and the ashes placed in a special biodegradable urn that is planted with the root ball of the tree.  Depending on the space chosen, a full range of options for markers can be available, and the tree is watered and warranted for two years.  The cost is similar to a traditional burial and can be less, especially if arranged for in advance of need.

Cremation is not as environmentally friendly as a natural burial, but the environmental and wildlife value the tree will provide perhaps more than mitigates the impact of the interment. Plus, who doesn’t want to become a tree?

Trees and cemeteries can have an uneasy relationship – while they provide beauty, trees also take up space and require maintenance.  As a historic rural cemetery where the treescape is part of its identity, Green Lawn is uniquely suited to provide tree burials, and these trees will help our efforts to preserve and improve the canopy.

Green Lawn - Preparing Site for Tree Burial
Preparing a tree burial site

The first two tree burial packages were sold in October.  The first was a pre-arranged reservation that will eventually plant an Ohio buckeye, and the second for a burial that planted a white oak.  That particular oak is just outside the dripline of a much older tree that for years has provided a nest cavity for wood ducks.  Could this tree, 200 years from now, provide a similar cavity after the older tree is gone?  We can’t know, but it is safe to say that the more ways we can find to get trees planted, the more likely there will be future homes for wood ducks and other creatures at Green Lawn.  Tree burials are a way to continue both family heritage and natural heritage in our “very special park”.

For more information, call the cemetery office, 614.444.1123, or use the online contact form at the Green Lawn website.

Green Lawn - Tree for Burial
A new tree, in this case an oak, planted for a tree burial
Green Lawn - Tree with Space for Burial
The burial will later be one with the tree