A  South Portland-based group is looking for land for a green burial ground that will allow those interested to make a lasting environmental impact after their death and also change the way people think about cemeteries. 

“A green burial is where your body gets laid to rest in a way that it can just do its thing. It can biodegrade on its own without the use of any chemicals,” said Tricia Jamiol, president and co-founder of Circle of Life Memorial Gardens.

Jamiol

The organization is searching for over 100 acres in Southern Maine for their burial site and gardens, which Jamiol hopes to find in the next year. Now backed by a board of directors, Circle of Life has applied for and is awaiting official charitable status from the federal government, she said. 

The green burial movement is in “the conception stage. It’s taking its first wobbly steps,” said Hugh LeMaster, vice president of the Maine Cemetery Association.

“There are new and upcoming means of disposition. There is a big move back toward natural or simplistic ways of burial and back to the old days,”  LeMaster said. “I’m all about a respectful disposition. A green burial supports that.” 

Maine is an ideal setting for a green burial ground, Jamiol said, and the market is there.

“The combined aspects of Maine outdoor diehard fans and a younger generation having all sorts of information at their fingertips is kind of coming to a head,” she said. “People are wanting to know more about green burials and wanting to understand what happens after we die and what can we do with our bodies in a way that doesn’t harm the planet.”

Although there are other green burial cemeteries in the state, such as Burr Cemetery in Freeport and Rainbow’s End in Orrington, Jamiol plans to do things differently. She plans for hers to also include a sustainability center, which will host community-based and educational programming. 

“We want to educate people (about) how our impact on the Earth can be a little bit smaller. For example, a typical cemetery contains enough wood to construct more than 40 houses … and when we put that stuff in the ground, we don’t get to reuse it,” Jamiol said.

“We’re hoping to bring a lot of that awareness, but also education about horticultural practices and community building … and have it be a real place full of life, rather than a cemetery to go and put flowers down and not really think about it anymore,” she said. 

Ultimately, Jamiol hopes to establish a green cemetery in which people of all ages can visit, learn and enjoy nature.

“We’re hoping to start turning the page on what people think a cemetery can really be,” Jamiol said.  “We want it to truly be like walking through the Botanical Gardens.”

For more information, visit the organization’s website or email [email protected] to learn more or make a land donation.

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