Group advocates for green burials

Apr. 30—LEWISBURG — A Union County woman and three Bucknell University graduating seniors have worked together on the first stage of establishing a nonprofit organization that promotes green burial in the Valley.

Farida Zaid coordinated with Maddie Liebegott, of Burlington, Vt.; Nathan Peot, of Washington, D.C.; and Kelley Schutte, of Westport, Conn.; to create Last Footprints. They are laying the groundwork for the creation of a local natural burial site that protects and restores natural spaces.

Zaid was inspired after seeing a green burial site in Pittsburgh.

"It was so beautiful and peaceful and interesting," she said. "It's a place where people would like to go to have meaningful ceremonies and have their money go to help Mother Nature. That's what I would like."

The mission is to be committed to developing and promoting green burial and empowering people to plan ahead for the inevitable challenges of aging, to lay the groundwork for the creation of a local natural burial site that protects and possibly restores a natural area, to empower individuals and their loved ones by providing education, resources and support to help them make informed decisions about burial and other end of life issues, said Zaid.

"Throughout much of human history, the conventional practice after death involved burying bodies in the ground and allowing them to decompose naturally," according to Last Footprints. "However, over time, we've complexified, toxified, and inflated this process. The emerging concept of green burial marks a return to simplicity, echoing traditional practices by allowing bodies to decompose naturally in the earth without hindrance. This approach not only nurtures the environment but also offers a serene and natural farewell, providing a final resting place immersed in the beauty of nature."

A few defining criteria and characteristics of green burial cemeteries include: providing eco-conscious care for the deceased to minimize environmental harm and support the preservation of natural resources; decreasing carbon emissions; safeguarding the health of funeral home and cemetery workers; avoiding the use of toxic embalming fluids; eliminating the need for burial vaults; opting for biodegradable containers, caskets, or shrouds; and abstaining from the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, according to the group.

Green burial "has a much lighter environmental footprint," said Liebegott.

It is more beautiful to look at, good for the environment and wildlife habitats and fosters biodiversity, said Schutte.

"It's all about creating a more sustainable future," said Peot.

Liebegott and Schutte are part of the environmental studies major at Bucknell and Peot is part of the environmental sciences. They all hope to be involved in some capacity after graduation.

The students worked with Zaid to create promotional and educational material, design a website and set up social media accounts. They are also working with her to seek land to establish the site.

"It was a lot of trial and error, and we only had a semester to work on it," said Schutte.

The goal is to work with Walnut Acres Foundation in Middleburg for 16 acres of land as well as the Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy. Any profits made would go toward the cleanup and conservation of the surrounding land, said Zaid.