MIDDLEBURY — A new organization forming in the state, Green Burial Vermont, will host an informational meeting on Monday, Feb. 20, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury. The short documentary video, “Dying Green,” will be shown, followed by a brief talk by Michelle Acciavatti, coauthor with the Calais Cemetery Commission of House Bill 3, currently under consideration in the Vermont Legislature.
House Bill 3 would raise the legal minimum burial depth from five feet to three-and-a-half feet, an important consideration for green burial practices. Acciavatti is a home funeral, green burial, advance care planning guide and death midwife from Montpelier.
The presentation will be followed by audience questions and discussion with a panel consisting of Acciavatti and two other green burial consultants, Ron Slabaugh of Middlebury and Carl Anderson of West Berkshire.
Vermont is one of only two states that set a legal depth for burial and it isn’t clear where the five foot requirement comes from. A few other states require a minimum depth of soil over the body and a three-and-a-half foot depth would be consistent with these guidelines. It also provides a sufficient smell barrier to keep animals from scavenging grave sites.
Green burial is a return to how interment took place in the past and in contrast to the expensive and environmentally destructive burial practices that have evolved in this country, especially since the Civil War, when embalming was necessary to be able to ship bodies of slain soldiers home to families for burial. A green burial does not embalm the body, uses a simple biodegradable shroud or coffin, no concrete or steel vault, and a grave only three-and-a-half feet deep.
Vermont is behind the curve in adopting green burial practices relative to other states. There are currently 150 green burial sites in 28 states and the District of Columbia and Vermont Green Burial believes the time has come for Vermont to move into these ranks and is optimistic about passage of House Bill 3.