Last modified Friday, November 28, 2003 10:11 PM CST

Local man touts benefits of 'green' burials

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust is the preferred method of burial in the nation's third "green" cemetery.

The new cemetery, located in the Waterwood subdivision, will be a natural resting place for an entire family. Started by George Russell, the cemetery is meant to bypass the embalming process and use of caskets included in traditional burial methods.

Embalming is not allowed in a green cemetery and caskets made of recycled wood or pine are allowed, but not recommended. Simple shrouds of biodegradable materials are the preferred method of covering.

"To pickle a human body instead of nurturing the Earth is not what the Bible calls for," Russell said. "What are you preserving? The body eventually turns to toxic liquid that will pollute the water supply."

Cremation is also not recommended by Russell because it pollutes the air.

"Remains may be scattered or buried, but we prefer burial of whole bodies, because cremation wastes fossil fuels, creates air pollution and contributes to global warming," he said. "Muslims, Christians and Jews should all demand green burial."

According to Russell's proposal, each family plot would be one third of an acre and would accommodate as many as 12 human graves and 24 family pet graves.

"Each grave would be marked with a historical marker to be placed at the head of each burial plot, with a smaller biodegradable marker on each grave. This would be helpful for historians, because markers would tell something about the family or persons buried there," he said.

Russell said the cost savings of a burial in a green cemetery is a major plus.

"Burials can cost thousands of dollars. People in our society tend to be materialistic," he said. "They appear to try to compete with one another about what to do with loved ones. We should be trying to think about the circle of life and our own demise."

"There's nothing positive about spending thousands of dollars in coffins and toxic fluids. The money saved can be used for positive things like sending other family members to college," he said.

The cost of burial in Russell's green cemetery would not have a set price.

"We don't want to limit burial to those with money and exclude the poor," he said. "We ask what a person would like to contribute. If that person was a millionaire, they could donate a million. I hesitate to say a person has to buy something. I don't want this to feel commercial."

Homeless veterans would get free burial in the cemetery.

"We're going to take care of veterans. If they don't have a family and no way to have proper burial, we would take care of them," Russell said.

Embalming isn't allowed at the cemetery, so bodies must be buried within 24 hours, or they have to be properly refrigerated until burial. Russell also recommends families dig the graves for their loved ones.

Hand tools are allowed, but larger digging devices, such as backhoes, are not permitted. The graves must be at least 24 inches deep.

Cemeteries of this nature are already in operation in South Carolina, Florida and all over Europe.

The first plot of this cemetery has already been sold, according to Russell.

"She is a lady who helps our church and she donated a sum of money based on her ability to pay. I'm real happy about this," he said.

"Death should be a happy occasion. Everyone should leave a legacy to future generations, and this leaves a lasting legacy; a piece of God's creation."

Tori Rowe can be reached at (936) 295-5407 ext 3026 or by e-mail at