Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cemetery offers unique way to go green

At the Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, there are no headstones. There are no immediate markers indicating any graves. There are no signs of death.

With its wild grass meadows and tall, moss-filled oak trees, it bears more resemblance to a hiking trail.

Located just outside Gainesville and close to Paynes Prairie, the conservation cemetery specializes in natural or “green” burials. There, the deceased are not injected with embalming fluids, and the caskets are biodegradable.

“Ten or 15 years ago this wasn’t being done anywhere, but now there are dozens and dozens of these green cemeteries,” said Robert Hutchinson, a gravedigger at the cemetery. The first burial at PCCC was in July 2010, and now about 75 people are buried there. Another approximately 250 people have predesignated the natural cemetery as their final resting ground, Hutchinson said. With a conventional burial, a concrete or metal vault is placed in the ground, and the coffin is placed inside the vault. The body in the coffin is filled with chemical fluids that preserve it.

Freddie Johnson, a founder of Conservation Burial Inc., the nonprofit organization that started PCCC, said it’s the only certified conservation cemetery in Florida.

Most people choose a traditional coffin burial because they just follow convention, Johnson said.

“[Green burials] are rational and still maintains all reverence and respect and dignity for their loved ones,” he said.

However, Paul Chadik, associate professor and department head of UF’s Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, explained that with both types of burials, groundwater contamination, among other adverse effects, can be a concern.

“Over 90 percent of the people in Florida use groundwater as a drinking water source,” Chadik said. “You want to be able to protect that source from contamination.”

Because natural burial can be better for the environment and also less expensive, Joseph Fitzgerald decided to be buried at the PCCC. The 47-year-old Hawthorne native was laid to rest at the conservation cemetery in February.

“He loved to go out and visit Paynes Prairie,” said his brother, Michael Fitzgerald. “He liked being outdoors and the natural aspects of Florida.”

Describing the day of his brother’s funeral, Michael Fitzgerald said walking to the burial site was more like a peaceful nature hike.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

“It was sunny out and very pleasant,” he said. “You’re out in nature, and you feel like you are in the greater cycle of life.”

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.