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Wilton approves green burials

  • Laurel Hill Cemetery in Wilton will now offer 56 plots for green burials. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Laurel Hill Cemetery in Wilton will now offer 56 plots for green burials. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Laurel Hill Cemetery in Wilton will now offer 56 plots for green burials. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, June 01, 2017 12:30AM

Cemeteries that allow so-called “green” burials are rare in New Hampshire — you can count them on one hand. As of this spring, Wilton’s Laurel Hill is among those few.

“As a person who tries to live more lightly on the land, the idea that my death could not consume so many resources, that’s important to me,” said Sandy Lafleur of Wilton, who approached the Wilton Cemetery Trustees with a request that they consider allowing green burials last year.

Lafleur, a Wilton resident, said she plans to purchase one of the 56 lots newly designated for “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, if they are cremated) that has no metal hinges or nails and no glue. Ashes can also be put directly into the grave.

In Wilton’s case, markers must be flat, and not treated by any chemicals.

And when all the plots have been sold, the green portion of the cemetery will be allowed to a natural forested state.

Stasia Millett and Joe Broyles of Wilton, who are leaders in the Wiccan faith, said they were excited to hear this would be an option for them, and also plan to buy plots in the new “green” section of the cemetery.

“I have always had the idea that I would like to be absorbed by the trees, and brought up to the top of the trees. I know it’s a fanciful concept, but I like that idea,” said Millett.

“I agree with her entirely,” said Broyles, who is also a member of the Wilton Conservation Commission. “My strongest spiritual connection has always been with nature. A green burial makes a whole lot more sense to me.”

Lafleur, who first broached the subject with the Cemetery Trustees along with Lyndeborough resident Alisha DiMasi after the pair saw a presentation on green burials in Massachusetts, said that they hope that Wilton is only the start of a trend. Now that they’ve seen the process work successfully in Wilton, they hope to see green burial cemeteries or sections implemented in other towns – including DiMasi’s Lyndeborough.

The pair gave a presentation on green burials at the Souhegan Sustainability Fair on Earth Day, and will repeat the presentation at the J.A. Tarbell Library on June 19 at 7 p.m. They hope that meeting will be a precursor to Lyndeborough – and beyond – also adopting a green burial option.

“I think it’s important to have options,” said Lafleur. “It’s overwhelmingly the status quo that when someone dies, a funeral director is called, and then the body is embalmed or cremated, and it’s a foregone conclusion. And it shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion.”

“It’s become so much a standard of our culture,” agreed Broyles. “Anything else requires a retooling of our cultural thinking, our laws, and even the funeral industry. We’re trying to reset the clock in some ways.”

You must be a Wilton resident, a past resident for at least 10 years, or a direct relative of a resident to purchase a lot in Wilton’s cemeteries. More information about Wilton’s green burial regulations can be found on the Cemetery Trustee’s page of the town website.

 

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