At the end of 2011, the Green Pet-Burial Society submitted a proposal to the Green Burial Council (GBC) on its certification standards for green burial grounds. When our Society was founded, GBC had four certificate levels; then effective on 1/1/11, GBC consolidated its standards into its current three levels.
In thinking about how these standards might apply to pet cemeteries as well as human cemeteries, we carefully analyzed GBC’s standards and proposed some modifications, including reinstituting a four-standard system along with some additional recognitions. (Note: these two organizations are independent from one another.)
Certifying Pet Cemeteries
Our primary question is: What standards would be appropriate for pet cemeteries as well as human and ‘family cemeteries’? (We call cemeteries that allow full-body burial of the remains from all members of a family – humans and their companion animals – ‘family cemeteries.’)
While operating under the label ‘cemetery,’ pet cemeteries are generally unregulated or barely regulated by state cemetery laws. This can be misleading as we learn anecdotally that many consumers believe and expect that cemetery regulations fully apply to both kinds of cemeteries (i.e., human and pet).
While there is a need for more state regulation – which the Green Pet-Burial Society supports – we recognize that this will likely happen only when consumers and their representatives become proactive. Therefore, a GBC certification affords a level of assessment and accountability that will be attractive to both, consumers and pet cemeteries.
One major proposed change regards the designation of ‘hybrid’ burial grounds. GBC uses the term ‘hybrid’ to refer to cemeteries which would allow biodegradable shrouds or containers among their mix of graves holding non-biodegradable caskets. Rather, we call such cemeteries ‘mixed-media cemeteries.’ While such options might be recognized as a step in the right direction and may be a satisfying option for some consumers – we wouldn’t consider such cemeteries as ‘green.’ We propose that the term ‘hybrid’ be reserved for cemeteries with a separate section devoted exclusively to green burials.
Here is a brief summary of our proposals’ key points:
1. Require that all cemeteries be deeded in perpetuity in order to be certified as ‘green.’
2. Differentiate ‘mixed-media’ cemeteries from ‘hybrid’ cemeteries.
3. Have ‘Hybrid’ cemeteries only include those with a designated green burial section.
4. Reintroduce ‘Low Impact Burial Ground,’ to be characterized by the criteria for the proposed green burial sections extended to the entire cemetery.
5. Allow ‘Conservation Burial Ground’ certification for cemeteries that meet current standards, but which contract with a conservation organization/agency rather than be co-“owned by or operated in conjunction with” a conservation organization/agency (or to have “operated in conjunction with” to include contracted consultant arrangements). This may potentially enable more cemeteries to achieve ‘conservation’ status without compromising standards.
6. Establish a special recognition for those conservation burial grounds that are “owned by or operated in conjunction with” a conservation organization/agency, beyond a consultant arrangement.
7. Allow conservation burial grounds (and other levels) to permit ‘non-biodegradable’ tools/materials/practices that are designed to reestablish or maintain wildlife populations (with a statement that GBC encourages wildlife protection practices as determined by a wildlife organization/agency).
8. Possibly change the title, or create special designation, for these wildlife preservation cemeteries, e.g., ‘Conservation Burial Ground/Wildlife Preserve.’
For pet cemetery managers thinking of going green – see our four-page pamphlet, The Greening of Pet Cemeteries, initially prepared for a presentation at the 2011 annual convention of the International Association of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories (IAOPCC).
In the News
On April 1, 2012,CNN Online mentioned the Green Pet-Burial Society in an article on green burials for companion animals.
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