I agree - this is an excellent article and very well researched.
Some additional things to note:
1) Many veteran's cemeteries currently offer vault-free burials (Muslims get these by tradition, and vault-free burials were performed for centuries before our modern vault-system was introduced as a "necessary purchase"). Vault-free burials only need to be requested when arranging for a plot. If the cemetery is unfamiliar with how to conduct and maintain a vault-free burial, they can contact the management at Arlington Cemetery for instruction.
2) Many historic, pioneer and churchyard cemeteries still offer vault-free burials, and never stopped. Our new non-profit's cemetery transition project works with cemeteries to help them understand their potential as vault-free sites. Over the weekend we met with one cemetery that has recently learned (through a volunteer inventory just concluded) that it has over 400 sites it can soon offer for sale. These can be vault-free, and the cemetery already has all the protections needed to ensure it operates as a cemetery in perpetuity. The cemetery is thrilled to learn it may have a 'new lease on life' with natural burial.
3) There are probably thousands of sites across the US that are capable of offering vault-free burials today - it's mostly a matter of recognizing the existing capacity in our own backyards. This is nothing new - it's the way we always did it, and we're simply returning to basics.
4) Sustainable landscape management (the main part of the "green" piece, beyond vault-free) is already being undertaken in schools and parks. Managing cemeteries with low-input techniques is not that far off, and we can expect cities to engage in those now that resource-use is becoming so expensive. In the UK, many historic cemeteries are now recognized as key conservation areas for cities starved for cared-for plantings. In the US, the support of existing cemeteries as worthy greenspaces is not far behind, ensuring that existing cemeteries can transition to places of urban habitat and local renewal. Local volunteer groups can help, and the shift of cemeteries will be one more bright spot on the revitalization horizon.
5) Within 5-10 years we can expect that many cemeteries will be able to offer some form of natural burial. What this means is that urban residents will be able to support their local cemetery's transition to sustainability with minimal fuss. No regulation or certification or complex trust and land-management negotiations are needed in these areas as citizens are well-aware of what's going on in their own backyards and most of these cemeteries are often already well-protected enough for the average person's use. This focus on fixing what we already have ensures that existing publicly-held and managed cemeteries are supported as ongoing natural human resources, with minimal time and money going toward their "organization" and instead being devoted to their mapping, improvement, and evolution into more sustainable techniques.
It all will be, as Karen's group-name suggests, a "natural transition."
Thanks again for the great article.
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