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Santa Monica Woodlawn Cemetery to Offer Eco-Friendly ”Burials
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 16, 2016 -- Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetery will soon offer “eco-friendly” burial plots, joining a small but growing “green” movement in North America that is replacing embalming and vaults with all-wood caskets and linen shrouds, and headstones with wild flowers.

Eternal Meadow,” which opens in early-to-mid September on Woodlawn grounds, ensures a smaller carbon footprint for the departed by requiring use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, an August 4 report to the City Council said.

It upends centuries-old traditions like embalming, cement vaults and headstones in favor of environmentally healthier, all-natural alternatives of laying the dead to rest.

Picture of Woodlawn Cemetery Courtesy of Santa Monica Library Image Archives

Even urns must be biodegradable, officials said.

Green burial is well-aligned with the City's commitment to protecting the environment and promoting sustainability,” Cemetery Administrator Cindy Tomlinson said.

This new section, Eternal Meadow, will offer families and individuals an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial,” she said. “The area will serve as a meaningful memorial landscape that contributes to the ecological health of the surrounding community.”

The site's 364 plots are now being sold on a “pre-need” basis, she said. “We have a waiting list already.”

But even for a city as progressive and environmentally conscious as Santa Monica, green burials are strikingly different.

There are no grave markers, for instance, a rule that is meant maintain the meadow land in its natural state.

After a burial, grievers are instead given wildflower seeds to plant on graves. Thereafter, the deceased are located using a radio frequency tracking device.

Programmed into the devices are such information as decedent name, plot location, interment date, date of death, next of kin, purchaser information, and family contact information, the report said.

When it opens, Eternal Meadow will be one of only a few of its kind in California, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Others are in Joshua Tree, Sacramento, Placerville, Mill Valley and Davis.

Nearby, Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in the City of Los Angeles opened a green burial section, Gan Eden, in 2014. However, its services are only for those to with ties to Jewish lineage.

Woodlawn, which is City owned, is nonsectarian and offers services to people of all faiths and ethnicities, Tomlinson said.

Santa Monica’s green burial section is being landscaped with a California native wildflowers and grasses, as well as desert and Mediterranean wildflowers.

The area provides a natural cycle of life as nutrients from decedents nourish the surrounding plant life,” Tomlinson said.

Going green in this case is more expensive, though.

A green burial plot costs $10,450, plus a 35 percent endowment for ongoing care, compared to $7,837.50 for a traditional plot, which requires a 25 percent cost-of-care endowment. Tomlinson said the higher cost is due to the larger plot size required for green burial.

The plots must be larger to accommodate burial without a vault, or in some cases, with only a shroud ,”she said in her report.

The larger plot sizes in particular provide a safe distance for digging, so remains of the already interred are not impacted when other plots are added, she said.

The estimated $125,000 addition of Eternal Meadow is expected to generate about $3.8 million from plot sales and about $1.3 million to the perpetual care fund over time once all plots are sold, the report said

Happy Earth, LLC was the landscape designer, and Mystic Water Gardens provided the installation. Eternal Meadow also has been certified by the Green Burial Council (GBC), a non-profit organization in the California community of Ojai.

According to the group’s website, the number of GBC approved providers in North America has grown from one when it started in 2006, to more than 300 today, operating in 41 states and six provinces of Canada (including funeral homes, cemeteries and related-product providers).

Ecologists say that the old-fashioned way of dealing with the deceased is wasteful and potentially harmful in several ways. Nor, they say is there scientific or other evidence that sealing a casket or embalming will preserve human remains.

The GBC says that U.S. cemeteries use more than 180 million pounds of steel on an annual basis, plus 5 million pounds of copper and bronze and more than 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde.

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