Temple considers green burials

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 15, 2018 5:31PM

As the need to expand East Cemetery approaches, the Temple Cemetery Trustees are seeking to gauge the public’s opinion of the trend of “green” burials.

Green burials use only biodegradable materials. The body is not embalmed, and is not placed in a concrete, plastic or gravel-lined vault, which is the common practice today. The body is wrapped in a shroud of biodegradable material, or in an untreated wooden casket  or urn that has no metal hinges or nails and no glue. Ashes can also be put directly into the grave. Usually, markers are flat, and after the green burial space is filled, the area is allowed to return to a forested state.

Trustee Maureen Cullinan said she was inspired to bring the discussion to Temple, after seeing reports in the Ledger-Transcript that Wilton would be setting aside 56 lots for green burials as they expanded the Laurel Hill Cemetery.

“Some of us – including me – are sensitive about the kinds of chemicals we may be putting into the ground,” said Cullinan in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Sunday. “It was of high interest to me.”

Temple isn’t the only community Wilton inspired to have a green burial conversation – in June, Lyndeborough held an informational session at the J.A. Tarbell Library featuring a presentation from Sandy LeFleur of Wilton and Alisha DiMasi of Lyndeborough. The two women had both seen a presentation on green burials in Massachusetts earlier in 2017, and were interested in seeing their towns adopt the process. 

Cullinan and the other Temple Cemetery Trustees went to the Lyndeborough presentation, and DiMasi and LeFleur will be giving a similar talk at the Temple Town Hall on Thursday, to gauge the interest of Temple residents in the process.

“It’s the opportune time to go green, if we’re going to,” said Cullinan. “Or at least reserve a section for it.”

That’s because the town is looking to expand the East Cemetery with existing land owned by the town.

“We’ve been sitting on the land, but as we look to the future, it’s about time to start getting things in order,” said Cullinan, who said the cemetery isn’t out of space yet, but the Trustees anticipate that day coming within the next ten years or so.

While the Trustees have the authorization to create a section of the cemetery dedicated to green burial, Cullinan said the Trustees would like to educate people on the process and then receive feedback during this March’s Town Meeting, either through a warrant article or a non-binding floor vote to see whether or not it’s something the citizens want.

“No one has asked about green burial, but so many people don’t even have that concept,” said Cullinan. 

For example, she said, she has already bought her plot in Temple’s cemetery – but now knowing that there are alternative options, she’d like her burial to be greener.

“I was just not aware of that, so I thought I would have to go the usual route,” said Cullinan. 

Currently, according to Temple’s cemetery rules and regulations, non-residents may purchase burial space in the town’s cemeteries. Because the allowance of green burials is so rare in the state of New Hampshire – only allowed by a few towns and restricted to those town’s residents – Cullinan said the Trustees have discussed whether or not to limit green burial spaces to residents or their direct relatives, but have made no final decisions on the matter. The rules and regulations give power to the Trustees to restrict the purchase of lots by non-residents in certain cemeteries based on the amount of space, and require that the Trustees review that policy annually. 

The Trustees invite residents interested in learning about the process of green burial to a talk at the Temple Town Hall on Thursday, at 7 p.m.,  with a storm date of Jan. 25 to learn about all styles of green burials from Alisha DiMasi and Sandy Lefleur from Threshhold Care.