Provincetown Board Allows Green Burials

PROVINCETOWN – The Provincetown Select Board has approved a request from the town’s Cemetery Commission to begin allowing green burials at the Provincetown Cemetery.

30 plots for green burials will be set aside for the practice.

Green burials are, as the name suggests, meant to make less of an impact on the environment.

Bodies are not embalmed before a green burial. Bodies decompose naturally and enter back into the earth without releasing harmful chemicals and toxins into the soil.

Cemetery Commissioner Dawn Walsh explained that this does not mean the practice will become the status quo across the town, but rather options now simply include green burials.

“It doesn’t take away from anyone who wants to do a more conventional burial with embalming in a casket and a vault,” Walsh said when detailing the process to selectmen recently.

Green burials had previously been prohibited in the town, but regulations have been revised over the past year and a half by the Cemetery Commission, and now it is no longer required to have caskets placed inside cement vaults.

The Provincetown Department of Public Works, along with the town’s Board of Health, gave their support for the changes.

Instead of being placed in a metal or wooden coffin within a concrete vault deeper into the ground, bodies that are laid to rest in a green burial are taken three to five feet into the natural ground, the area where growth processes primarily occur. Bodies are often wrapped in a shroud or quilt as well.

“If the body is in a container, it just needs to be biodegradable; a simple pine box, or a cardboard coffin, a willow casket, et cetera,” Walsh continued.

Grave markers are often natural stones etched with information, as opposed to large gravestones.

Those who support the idea of green burials also say that they are considerably less expensive than a typical burial involving a large casket placed inside a concrete vault.

About Brendan Fitzpatrick

Brendan, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is one of the newest members of the NewsCenter team. When not on the beat, you'll probably find him watching Boston sports.
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