Green Burial

Now that I’m 75, the reality of my mortality looms larger than ever before. Every day people my age and younger are dying. I will someday join them. Plans must be made.

On an unseasonably warm January day, we drove out to the Bluestem Conservation Cemetery to pick out my plot for a future green burial. It was a beautiful day. Predicted to be cloudy, nevertheless the sun came out and warmed the air to the mid 60s. Bluestem is 87 acres of woods and fields, newly opened this summer. Trails cross through the meadows of the bluestem grasses and the woodlands; it’s a good place for a hike. Heidi and Jeff, co-founders, want it to be a peaceful place for communing with nature and enjoying the outdoors as well as for laying loved ones to rest.

I had thought I’d be cremated. But when the Bluestem folks gave a presentation to Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, I learned cremation takes 28 gallons of fuel per person over 3-4 hours. We have enough pollution without me adding to it. When my times comes, I can be in a simple pine box or even a shroud. They planted the meadows in bluestem grasses because they absorb more carbon than trees. I liked the idea. I began to consider green burial. “You are dust and to dust you shall return,” as the scriptures say (Genesis 3:19).

We walked around Bluestem for about an hour. Imagining where I would like to be buried felt huge. I don’t like to think about the end of my life. Who does? I’m fairly healthy still. Yes, I have hearing aids now and osteoporosis and various pains that appear and depart mysteriously. I get tired more easily. After lunch I’m ready for, not a nap, but rest and read time. Always a health nut, I exercise, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep. Living to 100 seems possible, even probable.

We walked on. Our guides described what we saw and their vision for improvements. Then we came upon two large trees, their arms reaching wide to embrace the sky. In front was an area filled with bluestem grasses. What kind of trees are these? Black walnut. There had been a black walnut tree in back of our house when I grew up. We had gathered them to eat. The space with bluestem grasses looked up at the trees. This was my spot, I felt it.

Back at their office in an old rustic cabin, I signed the contract, wrote a check.

We drove home. After such a big decision, I was ready for a nap.


  1. Trish Barile on January 19, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for your post. You captured so many of the thoughts that I’m having that I don’t share with others. It’s nice to be on the same page as someone else.

  2. Charles Humble on January 20, 2023 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Alice. Helps demystify the option.

  3. Caroline Romano on January 20, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for your post. I did not know cremation takes 28 gallons of fuel.

  4. Ellie Kinnaird on January 20, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    Enjoyed our conversation about the green burial and your post. I am going to be buried in a degradable cardboard box as part of the return to nature. The English have lovely designs on theirs at a pretty price. So I am opting for the simple – all available at funeral homes. Caveat -you have to be buried right after you die – memorials, celebrations later.

  5. Dawn Blanchard on February 9, 2023 at 2:26 pm

    I have loved reading The Poetry Cure and seeing you in exercise class and now, this post about choosing your burial site. Thank you!
    Re: green burial, you have make me think and I’m going to look into it!

  6. Matthew Spady on April 27, 2023 at 11:10 am

    Beautiful meditation on what is now forward-thinking, but was once the norm. Thank you, Alice.

  7. Louise Hobbs on September 21, 2023 at 3:15 am

    Thank you for this. It gives me something to consider.

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