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Last updated: Mon. Aug. 18, 2008 - 10:42 am EDT

More Hoosiers seek out ‘green' burials

Cemeteries in Bloomington, Lafayette planned.


INDIANAPOLIS — Environment-friendly burial services are being offered across the country and are drawing attention from some Indiana funeral planners.

Green burial services can involve cardboard caskets and cemeteries that look like wooded nature preserves. At least two green cemeteries are being planned in Indiana - one near Bloomington and another in Lafayette, The Indianapolis Star reported in its Sunday editions.

Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers in Indianapolis are training staff on green services, and are considering ways to create green burial sections at some of its existing cemeteries.

“We have heard the requests that some of our consumers are more interested in a natural form of burial,” said Flanner and Buchanan's Barb Milton. “So we want to be able to offer them.”

The Green Burial Council, a nonprofit that sets standards for natural burials, says traditional services can be wasteful - using caskets made of steel, copper or old-growth hardwoods.

“Do we need to expend that kind of energy on a box we are going to use for one or two days and then bury forever?” said Joe Sehee, executive director of the council. “Does that really jibe with our values? An increasing number of Americans are saying, ‘No, it doesn't.”'

Nathan Butler hopes his funeral home can be one of the first in the state to offer green burials. He's working to open a green cemetery about five miles west of Bloomington. The cemetery would have an access path, but would mostly leave intact the forest of ash, elm and hickory trees.

Hippensteel Funeral Home in Lafayette expects to open a green cemetery with 200 plots on land within an existing cemetery.

“We're responding to the requests of our families,” said general manager Joe Canaday.

Green burials can also be much cheaper than modern burials.

Burials that include embalming, steel caskets and concrete vaults can cost $10,000 or more, while green burials can be done for less than $2,000.

Karen Conyers, of Bloomington, buried her mother in May using a simple casket and no embalming. She liked the environmental benefits, but said it also made economic sense.

“I don't think the family is well-served by spending thousands of dollars for something that isn't that big a part of life,” said Conyers. “If we had bought a top-of-the-line casket, it would have cost as much as the entire service.”

Sehee said a growing number of funeral homes are offering green services, despite their lower profitability and a market that is still relatively small.

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