How this Ontario cemetery is going green

In the green-burial section of Glenwood Cemetery, in Picton, there’s no steel, no concrete, and no formaldehyde — just bodies, sometimes blankets, and earth

A person crouching down in a green space
Helma Oonk, general manager of Glenwood Cemetery, examines a young wildflower in the new green-burial section. (David Rockne Corrigan)

PICTON — Most of Glenwood Cemetery’s 25 hectares are manicured and marked with gravestones, but not those in its southern end. They’ve been left in their natural state: sunlight pokes through towering maples; deer graze on flowers on the forest floor. But sticking out through the underbrush are 35 orange flags, each one marking a future burial lot — and signalling that, at Glenwood, interment is going green.

On this day in early June, Helma Oonk, the cemetery’s general manager, and Sandra Latchford, its board chair, are surveying the section and explaining why it represents the next chapter in the cemetery’s 136-year history.

“Number one and two are gone,” says Oonk. “And, last week, I sold grave number seven. And number 17, in the corner, is on hold for someone from Kingston.”

In May, Glenwood became the second Ontario cemetery to receive certification from the Green Burial Society of Canada, a national non-profit organization that sets standards for green burials, and announced that it would be adding more environmentally friendly burial options.

“People realize, ‘Oh, I don’t need a vault’ or ‘Oh, I don’t need embalming,’ and it’s actually not allowed [in this section]. No concrete, no steel casket. If you just want to be rolled in your blanket, that’s fine, too,” says Oonk. MORE

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