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Green burials becoming more common

The Keweenaw Green Burial Alliance held a tour of the Chassell Cemetery on Saturday, where a section of the land is dedicated for the practice. Department of Public Works employee Joe Youngman led the group, and has been in charge of slowly expanding the size of the facility. Not all of the surrounding land works as traditional plots, but green burials leave a smaller footprint.

I have been doing that for five to six years, making new regular burial areas. Then the green burial came up and it turns out this place right behind me was a little stretch of land that just didn’t fit for regular burials because you need bigger trucks to get in there, a vault truck. It just made perfect sense for a green burial.

Youngman says that outside of pulling down a couple of trees, he was able to leave the green burial section untouched.

KGBA President Stephen Jukuri says his group originally hoped to form its own conservation cemetery, but has had to settle for carving out sections of existing ones instead.

There are a couple of other cemeteries in the Keweenaw and Houghton area. Forest Hills Cemetery in Houghton has a green burial option now. Eagle River Cemetery in the Keweenaw has a green burial option. Several other cemeteries are working on it.

Green burials do not use vaults that alter the landscape, preserving chemicals, or coffins designed to weather centuries underground. That helps to lower costs, while also reducing the environmental footprint of saying goodbye to a loved one.

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