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Saturday December 3rd

Want to be “green” even after you’re gone? In Carrboro, now you can

<p>The Town of Carrboro was incorporated 106 years ago, though it was then called Venable. It's now named after North Carolina industrialist and white supremacist Julian Carr.</p>
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The Town of Carrboro was incorporated 106 years ago, though it was then called Venable. It's now named after North Carolina industrialist and white supremacist Julian Carr.

Green burials are now legal in Carrboro, offering a more environmentally friendly alternative to a traditional burial.

The Carrboro Board of Alderman voted to amend the town code at the Oct. 16 meeting to allow green burial in Old Carrboro Cemetery.

Green burial, or natural burial, does not involve an embalming of the body or placing the casket in a concrete vault, giving it a minimal environmental impact.

Green burial allows the body to recycle naturally by not using chemicals and other burial materials that interfere with decomposition. Instead, the body is buried in a biodegradable burial container. 

In 2014, Ellie Kinnaird, former Carrboro mayor and state senator, addressed the Board of Alderman with the request that the town permit green burial.

Kinnaird said she read an article about green burial and was interested in the method. She said she was attracted to the environmental sense green burial makes, and the spiritual symbolism of becoming “one” with the earth after death. 

The Carrboro town manager asked Rebecca Buzzard, the town's project manager, to research green burial and present objective information to the Board of Alderman. Buzzard said she researched both the pros and the cons of green burial, and presented that information to the board to inform their decision. 

The most prevalent benefit of green burial that Buzzard found in her research, she said, was that green burial is much less expensive and more socioeconomically friendly than traditional burial. A few negatives she included were the lack of public demand and the fact that green burials are more difficult to maintain. 

Buzzard said that while there was not a lot of demand from the public when this request was first brought to the board, since the amendment passed, the town has received several calls from members of the community who are interested in this type of burial.

Of the two cemeteries Carrboro owns, Buzzard’s research indicated that Old Carrboro Cemetery would be a better location to provide green burials than Westwood Cemetery. 

Kinnaird said this is because Old Carrboro Cemetery already has a rough terrain that is difficult to maintain, so adding the green burials doesn't pose an additional burden.

Buzzard presented two options to the board: to amend the town code to allow for green burial in Old Carrboro Cemetery or to continue to research the possibility further. 

The board unanimously decided to amend the town code and permit green burial in Old Carrboro Cemetery as a pilot, with Alderman Sammy Slade making the motion to amend.

Slade said the amendment passed without resistance because the Board of Alderman recognized the value of green burial as an alternative to the traditional method of burial and wanted it to be an option for the town’s citizens. 

“With the chemicals and infrastructure involved in the way burials happen, it’s just a very unfortunate way to depart with one’s body,” Slade said. 

The amendment only allows green burials in Old Carrboro Cemetery, but both Buzzard and Slade said there is a possibility that green burial will be allowed in the town’s other cemetery, and if interest persists, there could potentially be a green burial conservation ground in the town’s future.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Buzzard said. “From here we’ll do more studies to see if we don’t want to have a permanent conservation green burial ground in the future.”

Buzzard said she has already seen interest in green burial from citizens in the town who have called to make arrangements for that type of burial. She said members of the community who want to be buried in that fashion can now contact the Carrboro Public Works Department to indicate that.

Kinnaird said she was pleased with how the town carefully considered her request and that the amendment passed.

“No matter how minor in the life of a city this is or in the life of families, it is a statement for environmentalism and being good stewards of our land even where we’re at the end,” Kinnaird said. 


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