Natural Path Sanctuary is a green cemetery near Madison

Britni Petitt, Photo Editor

When thinking of cemeteries, there’s many ideas that come to mind. Funerals, headstones, and scary movies to name a few. It’s likely you haven’t thought about their environmental impact. From the materials used in caskets, maintenance of cemetery grounds, and the toxic chemicals used in preserving the bodies, it’s not shocking to learn that cemeteries can have a negative impact on the environment around them. Luckily, there are environmentally friendly options such as green cemeteries, and one exists right outside of Madison, called Natural Path Sanctuary.

Green cemeteries differ from modern cemeteries in many ways. Most notably, the lack of embalming fluids and care of the land. Embalming fluids use high amounts of carcinogenic formaldehyde, so much so, that embalmers have a heightened risk of developing certain types of cancer. Instead, green cemeteries, and the funeral homes that work with them, have different ways of preserving the bodies for periods of time that don’t involve the chemicals. These alternate methods keep embalming fluids out of the natural environment. Green cemeteries also allow trees, meadows, and native plant species to thrive within the cemetery, whereas modern cemeteries typically plant grass.

According to Natural Path Sanctuary director, Shedd Farley, there’s been a slow but steady rise in green cemeteries since South Carolina’s Ramsey Creek Preserve opened in the late 90’s. The increased interest in green burials has led to modern cemeteries to open sections for such burials. These hybrid cemeteries now outnumber green ones.

For more information on green cemeteries, you can find sources online, or Natural Path Sanctuary at Farley Center has events and info available at the center.