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Burials go green; bodies interred in just a cloth bag or wicker basket

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Congress,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Death Benefits

Cemeteries are the latest business go to green.

The new trend is for families of the dead to skip the traditional embalming, elaborate casket and concrete box and simply wrap the dead in a cloth shroud and put the body into the earth.

A Washington, D.C., cemetery is being recognized for helping lead the green drive. And not just any cemetery.

The Historic Congressional Cemetery reported on Friday that it has been certified as a “Hybrid Service Provider from the Green Burial Council.” They said Congressional is the only cemetery within a 100-mile radius of Washington to get the certificate.

“Green burial options are increasingly popular with pre-planning baby boomers and other socially and environmentally conscious individuals,” said cemetery president Paul K. Williams, “and with the designation, we are proud to be the only cemetery in the Washington D.C. metropolitan region to qualify to date.”

The cemetery said in a statement that green burials have been taking place for several years, along with traditional casket burials.

Green burials do not allow for embalming or the use of any concrete vault. “In addition, burial must take place in an eco-friendly container such as wicker casket or plain wooden box without hardware. Some individuals wish to be buried only clothed in a shroud, which the cemetery also allows as part of its new designation,” said the cemetery statement.

Flowers, however, are acceptable.

When Secrets asked what the cemetery does when the bodies eventually collapse and the ground sinks in, Williams said they fill in the ground. But that’s not unusual: “They all eventually do (even casket burials [do] in about 45 years), and we fill them in. We don’t require vaults anywhere, which help prevent this, but those eventually also collapse.”

Congressional still has 2,000 plots open, on sale for $4,000-$8,000, Williams added. And you don’t have to be a lawmaker or Supreme Court justice, like those interred there, to be put in the cemetery. “You only need to be dead,” he said.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.