Green Burial at The Meadow From Moles Farewell Tributes
Moles Farewell Tributes is honored to introduce The Meadow, the first natural burial ground in Western Washington to be certified by the Green Burial Council.
The Meadow Natural Burial Ground at Moles Greenacres Memorial Park allows families the option to lay loved ones to rest in a serene and natural environment. Natural burial, commonly referred to as “green burial,” utilizes:
- Sustainable burial methods
- 100% biodegradable materials
- Earth-friendly excavation and technology
Everything placed in the ground at The Meadow will be nontoxic and biodegradable, allowing it to return naturally to the earth. In addition, each burial will contribute to the ongoing restoration of The Meadow as a thriving, native ecosystem.
As part of the restoration efforts, each family will have the opportunity to have a native tree, shrub, flower, or ground cover planted in the memory of their loved one. Also available for memorialization are boulder-sized, engraved river rocks. These grounds will be kept as a natural area. Maintenance will be minimal and will not involve irrigation, fertilizers, regular mowing, or pruning. In addition, integrated pest management will be used to manage invasive species.
Those interested in finding out more about green burial, or about The Meadow at Greenacres Memorial Park in Ferndale, should call (360) 384-3401.
Mission: A Meaningful Memorial Landscape Contributing to Ecological & Social Health
The mission of The Meadow Natural Burial Ground is to create a natural and meaningful memorial landscape that is a thriving native ecosystem contributing to both the ecological and social health of the surrounding community.
The following information, standards, and guidelines, which incorporate the best practices to date, are intended to support this mission. If, at anytime, they are deemed as being counterproductive to this end, or if better practices come to light, this document will be reviewed and updated.
The Meadow is certified by the Green Burial Council as a natural burial ground and meets or exceeds all standards for this certification.
All burial containers placed in The Meadow must be 100% biodegradable and nontoxic. Metal caskets and fasteners, synthetic linings, formaldehyde glues, and high VOC (volatile organic compounds) finishes are prohibited. All caskets must be constructed from wood, grasses, reeds, bamboo, or other natural materials. All burial shrouds must be made of natural plant or animal fibers. Outer burial containers, such as concrete liners, metal vaults, partitions, and slabs, are prohibited.
Burial density, as it is plotted in The Meadow, is approximately 300 burials per acre, as opposed to approximately 1,000 burials per acre in a traditional setting. This density level serves a dual purpose: (1) it lowers the concentration of nutrients being placed in the soil to a sustainable level, and (2) it also creates enough room for grounds crews to excavate new graves alongside of existing burials without disturbing those remains.
All plots in The Meadow are 6 feet by 12 feet. The entire 72 square feet are not excavated during the opening of graves. Instead, the excavation is large enough to accommodate only the burial container and is located as close to the center of the grave as possible.
The topsoil and sand stratums that comprise the soil at Greenacres Memorial Park are segregated from each other during excavation of graves to ensure replacement in the appropriate order. This practice is standard throughout Greenacres Memorial Park.
All burials in The Meadow occur at a depth of approximately 4 to 4½ feet, thereby ensuring that the nutrient layer is raised to a higher soil stratum where microbes and oxygen can expedite the decomposition process. Since the smell barrier is 18 inches of soil, anything covered by 18 inches or more of soil will be undetectable to human or animal noses (with the exception of bears, which are not an issue in The Meadow). With a burial depth of 4 feet and a 2- to 3-foot mound of earth above, each burial is covered by approximately 60 inches of soil.
To further assist the decomposition process, the bottom of each grave is lined with a 1- to 2-inch thick layer of woodchips or beauty bark prior to the placement of the burial container. When closing the grave, the first layer of backfill is biomass. This biomass consists of grass cuttings, leaves, small sticks, cut flowers, compost, or any other nonhazardous plant material that is readily available on the grounds (nothing is imported) and will comprise approximately 20% of the backfill material. The purpose of wood chips and biomass is to inoculate the grave with oxygen and microbes, thereby hastening the decomposition process and creating “microbe channels” that draw nutrients up to the native plantings and prevent seepage into the ground water. The natural stratums of sand and topsoil are then replaced in their respective order.
Earth is mounded approximately 2 to 3 feet above every interment. This practice has a threefold purpose: (1) it accommodates the natural settling of the ground above an unlined grave; (2) the burial mound provides a visual cue for the grounds crew, preventing them from driving any equipment over an unlined grave; and (3) the burial mound creates an archetypical structure that is readily recognized for what it is and serves to mark a grave for families that choose to forego permanent memorialization.
To further assist grounds crews negotiating equipment through The Meadow without disturbing existing burials, all plots have been grouped radially around the walking paths in rows of three. The middle row of each grouping is out of inventory until the two outside rows have been filled in with burials. These “not for sale” middle rows provide access alleys for excavation equipment. When the outside rows become full and no longer need to be accessed, plots in the middle row will come into inventory and be available for purchase one at a time on an at-need basis. This practice allows the grounds crew to back their way down the middle row one burial at a time, thus ensuring that no remains will ever be disturbed.
Families and loved ones are allowed and encouraged to participate in the closing of the grave should they choose. If families and loved ones choose to close the grave either in part or completely, a cemetery staff member familiar with the process and techniques will be present as a facilitator.
NOTE: Due to the nature of burials in The Meadow as described above, disinterment of remains is not possible.
Permanent memorialization is available in the form of engraved river rocks. Two boulder sizes, individual (100–200 lbs.) and companion (300–500 lbs.), are available. Individual markers can accommodate inscriptions for one person, and companion markers can accommodate inscriptions for two people. River rocks, which are varied and natural in form and gathered, rather than coming from a quarry, conform to the natural aesthetic as well as the environmental specifications of The Meadow. For these reasons, permanent memorialization is limited to this option in The Meadow.
For each burial that occurs in The Meadow, a “guild” of three native plantings can be planted as a living memorial. A “guild” contains one tree, one shrub, and one ground cover. These plantings are selected from the list of acceptable native species generated by Northwest Ecological Services as part of the biological evaluation of The Meadow Natural Burial Ground.
Although families can choose any tree, shrub, and ground cover from the list, they are encouraged to select three companion species that have been grouped together because of their propensity to support each other against pests. These “guilds” of companion memorial plantings become part of the Integrated Pest Management Plan for The Meadow.
To prevent root encroachment and plant damage during future excavations, memorial plantings are placed only in specifically designated areas with the approval of cemetery staff. To give memorial plantings the best opportunity for survival, all plantings will take place in either early spring or fall, depending on plant selections.
Families and loved ones are encouraged to participate in the planting of living memorials at pre-arranged times. Tree plugs and one to five gallon starts are provided by Greenacres Memorial Park at no additional costs to families. Families are welcome to provide their own plantings from the list of acceptable species should they so choose.
In keeping with the restoration of The Meadow as a native ecosystem and the need to limit plantings to specifically designated areas, any unauthorized or nonnative plants will be removed immediately upon discovery.
Floral displays on graves are permitted, but limited to fresh cut flowers that have had all non-biodegradable materials, such as plastic wrap and ribbons, removed. No artificial flowers or plants, potted plants, boxes, toys, artwork, ornaments, chairs, or similar articles will be permitted. Exceptions are made for Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day.
All holiday embellishments and decorations must be removed by families within one week following the holiday, after which time they will be removed by cemetery staff. Cemetery staff cannot be held responsible for any items left on graves.
The Meadow is kept as a natural landscape. Mowing is employed only to maintain walking paths and to manage invasive species. Pruning is done only to remove potential hazards. Fertilizing and irrigation are not permitted. Herbicides will be used only if and when deemed necessary to manage or eradicate invasive species.
In 2008, Northwest Ecological Services (NES) LLC conducted a biological evaluation and impact analysis on The Meadow (this document is available for review upon request). Based on their findings, NES LLC declared in their report that “the natural burial ground at Greenacres Memorial Park is not expected to impact rare, priority, threatened, or endangered species or their habitats. Instead, developing a natural burial ground is likely to improve the suitability for wildlife foraging and nesting.”
The biological evaluation and impact analysis revealed a seasonal high water table and aquifer recharge area at the north end of The Meadow. For this reason, and with the intention of protecting ground water, no full-body burials will ever take place in this portion of The Meadow.
Instead, this northern-most part of The Meadow is being held for development as an area for the disposition of cremated remains. The size and depth of graves required for this purpose, and the inert nontoxic nature of cremated remains, means that this use will have no impact on groundwater. Any and all development for the burial of cremated remains will be consistent with the practices, standards, and guidelines contained on this page.
A species inventory was conducted as part of the biological evaluation. A number of nonnative, invasive, and noxious species were cataloged, the most notable being Himalayan blackberry, common tansy, and a variety of pasture grasses. As native plantings take hold, they will slowly push out the pasture grasses with the aid of human intervention. Eradication of the tansy and blackberry pose a greater challenge as well as a higher priority.
Common tansy can be managed and eradicated with regular mowing four or five times during a growing season for four or five years, and as such will be mowed once a month during the months of May, June, July, August, and September until eradicated.
Himalayan blackberry is perhaps the most pervasive of invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. Due to sizable blackberry patches on properties adjacent to The Meadow, the plant may never be eradicated. In holding with the Integrated Pest Management Plan, the goal for the Himalayan blackberry is management at an acceptable level. An acceptable level is considered as containing the blackberries to the perimeters of The Meadow. As of this writing, several different methods of management are being explored. These methods include, but are not limited to, the use of goats, manual root pulling, regular mowing with a brush hog, and limited use of herbicides.
Several small communities of scotch broom were also discovered. In the spring of 2009, all of the scotch broom, including roots, was pulled by hand. Each spring any returning scotch broom and roots will be pulled by hand until it has been eradicated.
With the exception of pasture grasses, which are present throughout The Meadow, the majority of invasive species are concentrated in the north half of The Meadow.
A large, native bracken fern community, containing native species such as snowberry, baldhip rose, fireweed, and spirea, dominate the south half of The Meadow. A small, mixed-canopy, native forest is located at the southern boundary of The Meadow.
The restoration and conservation plan for The Meadow calls for opening only one small section for interments at a time. The intent is to concentrate excavations and native memorial plantings in one area and then to close the area, allowing nature and native species to take over while intense human interaction with the landscape moves on to other areas. Under this plan, when an active section of The Meadow approaches the point of being sold out, the next interment area will be placed into inventory.
The first section open for burials is Forest’s Edge. As the name implies, this section is adjacent to the native forest at the south end of The Meadow. This area also has the greatest concentration of existing native species and the lowest concentration of invasive species. Because of these factors, a high degree of success is anticipated for slowly replacing invasive species with native plants in this section.
The next section to be opened for burials will be adjacent to Forest’s Edge. The intent of this plan is to slowly draw out the existing native ecosystem, while at the same time working to clear the way for this process by removing and managing invasive species.