Residents who want to bury loved ones in an environmentally sensitive way in Ashland no longer have to place the casket or shroud inside a concrete or metal liner or vault.

Residents who want to bury loved ones in an environmentally sensitive way in Ashland no longer have to place the casket or shroud inside a concrete or metal liner or vault.

The Ashland City Council voted last week to allow such "green" burials in city cemeteries.

Previously, the Ashland Municipal Code required the use of liners or vaults to prevent settling of the ground at the grave site. City staff members who manage city cemeteries said they expect some settling to occur with green burials, but that the problem isn't anything they can't handle.

The city of Ashland made the change because it has been receiving requests from residents that green burials be allowed, said Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught.

"It's a step forward for those folks who want a natural burial, without having to have a concrete vault," Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home and Crematory Assistant Manager Mel Friend said of the recent municipal code change.

With modern cemeteries, bodies began to be buried close together, which is one reason why people started using concrete or metal liners or vaults. If a person is buried without a liner or vault, there is a chance that the integrity of the gravesite could be compromised if a new grave is dug next to it, Friend cautioned.

For a full green burial, a body is not embalmed. It is placed in a biodegradable casket or shroud and lowered directly into the ground, with no liner or vault, he said.

Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home and Crematory, located in Ashland, offers green burial services and products, including pine caskets that aren't finished with lacquer or toxic chemicals, sustainably harvested woven seagrass or willow caskets and linen shrouds.

"The purpose is to allow the body to go back to the Earth more quickly than in a metal casket," Friend said.

— Ashland Daily Tidings