Blacksburg leaders considering ‘green’ burials

Natural or ‘green’ burials more cost-effective, environmentally friendly

BLACKSBURG, Va. – A new twist on a tradition as old as humankind. Blacksburg leaders are considering changing the rules and regulations at Westview Cemetery to establish “green” burials.

Just like the name suggests, green burials are better for the environment.

“You use all biodegradable materials and chemicals in the burial process,” John Boyer, the town’s director of public works said.

Unlike traditional burials, green burials don’t use toxic chemicals in the embalming process and eliminate the use of vaults, metal, plastic, or concrete.

Shrouds or caskets must be made of biodegradable fabric or material, like pine, bamboo, wicker, or other fast-growing timber that’s easily renewable.

Instead of tombstones, grave markers must lay flat and fit within size constraints.

Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith says this is the future and it appeals to all faiths.

“Our Jewish and our Muslim residents can contemplate being in the town cemetery because it offers green burial,” Hager-Smith said.

If Town Council agrees to make Westview Cemetery a green burial site, it’ll become a hybrid cemetery. That means one section will be reserved for traditional burials, while a separate section will be reserved for green burials.

“There’s also an economic component, meaning that it’s going to be considerably cheaper,” Boyer said.

Boyer says a citizen brought up the idea a few years ago, but it was put on pause during the pandemic until this year.

“This is something that will be good for all, including our environment,” Hager-Smith said.

Town Council will take up the ordinance on July 11 before a public hearing and final vote on Aug. 8.

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