Wilton contemplates ‘green’ burials

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wilton may become one of the few places in New Hampshire that specifically allows for so-called “green” burials.

The Cemetery Trustees were approached last year by a resident that was interested in having a green burial. 

Green burials, or natural burials are where a body is interred in a manner that doesn’t inhibit decomposition, and allows the body to recycle naturally. The body is prepared without chemical preservatives or embalming fluid, and may be buried in a biodegradable coffin, casket, or shroud. The grave is shallow enough to allow for microbial activity similar to composting. 

Natural burial grounds were pioneered in the UK, but are only allowed by the city of Rochester in New Hampshire. 

“It’s become something of a popular thing, now,” said former Cemetery Trustee Chair John Jowders, who did not re-run for his position in March when his term ended. “People don’t want to be polluting the earth with chemicals in their bodies or in the wood.”

The trustees researched the issue, said Jowders. “We couldn’t come up with any reasons we shouldn’t do it. It was something that we could entertain at least.”

The trustees have agreed, if the Select Board approves, that one section of the Laurel Hill Cemetery, where there is additional space for the cemetery expansion. They would set aside 56 lots specifically for green burials.

“We don’t want to dedicate a huge area for this, and then find out that there’s not a huge interest in this and see what happens after that,” he said.

The trustees approached the Select Board with the proposition during its Monday meeting, but according to Select Board Chair Kermit Williams, the board agreed that the management of the cemeteries is at the discretion of the trustees.

“It’s our opinion that this is a choice of the Cemetery Tustees. They set the rules for how the cemeteries operate,” said Williams.

The board did not have any major objections to the idea, said Williams. He himself had a concern that the plots would be limited to Wilton residents, particularly since the allowance of natural burials isn’t widespread in the state.

“We don’t want people coming in and buying a burial plot specifically for that, especially as there will be a limited number of spaces,” said Williams. However, once assured that, as with other spaces sold in Wilton, they are for residents, and that the land being used was assured not to have been used for prior burials or unmarked gravesites, he was prepared to give his blessing.

“I think we need to give people the options they want, and certainly there are a lot of residents in Wilton that care about the environment and that kind of thing,” said Williams.

The board did suggest to the Cemetery Trustees that they may want to hold a public hearing on the issue before moving ahead with it. Jowders agreed that that was “probably a good idea.” Now no longer a trustee, Jowders said that the rest of the board may consider holding a public hearing at some point in the next few months before making an official decision on allowing green burials. 

“It’s an issue we’d like to resolve, fairly quickly,” said Jowders. 


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.