Eco graveyard flourishing in face of high burial costs

AN ECO-FRIENDLY graveyard in Poitou Charentes is growing in popularity – with recent burials there almost matching the number of traditional funerals.

The cimetière naturelin Niort, Deux-Sèvres, was inspired by the UK, which has around a dozen eco-friendly graveyards and pioneered the concept. Since it was opened in February 2014, the cemetery has seen 15 burials – compared to 18 traditional burials or cremations in the area over the same period.

The graveyard makes coffins from biodegradable material and does not use handles and cushions. The coffin is then directly interred in the earth instead of being placed in a concrete receptacle. The body is also not embalmed in the usual formaldehyde-based chemicals, which can damage soil and water.

“We wanted to try and have as little impact as possible on the environment and also to change the perception of people,” said the cemetery’s designer Eve-Marie Ferrer. “They can come as if it were a garden and have a picnic or take a walk, and not just visit for religious reasons.”

Financial motives may have also contributed to the graveyard’s popularity – it costs on average 30% less to bury someone in the cimetière naturel than it does to give them a traditional funeral, which can cost up to €5,000.

Ms Ferrer said other communes had expressed an interest in setting up eco-friendly graveyards.

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