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Give your dog a green burial

By Matt Hickman, MNN.com
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
Cremation has emerged as an especially attractive alternative to old-fashioned burials that are extremely resource intensive.
Cremation has emerged as an especially attractive alternative to old-fashioned burials that are extremely resource intensive.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ecologically sensitive burial methods have risen in popularity
  • For a bury-in-the-yard option, you may want to check in with your local ordinances
  • 'Bio Cremation' uses alkaline hydrolysis instead of fire and leaves a lighter carbon footprint

(MNN.com) -- I don't know if I've watched too many scary movies lately, but I've been pondering natural burial alternatives for dearly departed pets. I know eco-sensitive burial methods are increasingly popular with humans, but I wasn't sure about pets, so I checked it out.

Ecologically sensitive burial methods have risen in popularity as of late, thanks much in part to the shaky economic climate. For budget-conscious families and green-minded mourners alike, cremation has emerged as an especially attractive alternative to old-fashioned burials that cost an arm and leg and are extremely resource intensive -- those resources being toxic embalming chemicals like formaldehyde, and concrete, steel and timber.

Then, of course, there's the land itself and the copious amount of water and landscaping chemicals needed to keep the carefully manicured plot where your great Aunt Enid is interred looking its best.

Although cremation, in the end, is greener than traditional $4,000 metal casket-in-the-ground burials, it isn't without environmental minuses, specifically in terms of energy use and emissions.

When it comes to sending a pet off into the great beyond, the options -- and their eco-drawbacks -- are similar: burial in a pet cemetery -- or zoological necropolis, if you will -- or more commonly, cremation.

There's also the bury-in-the-yard option, although you may want to check in with any local ordinances that may prohibit this if you plan on interring anything larger than a hamster, canary or goldfish.

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If you go this route, you should also probably not plan on moving anytime in the near future. And then there's freeze-dried taxidermy for those who really can't stand the thought of parting with their furry companion.

There is a natural pet burial movement, although it's a relatively small one. Founded in 2010 by Eric Greene, the Green Pet-Burial Society is a nonprofit organization that offers "support for a gentle return" and seems to be the go-to resource for those curious about pet burials where eco-friendly/biodegradable containers, shrouds and unadorned pine boxes placed in natural settings are favored over plastic boxes and immaculately landscaped pet cemeteries.

The Green Pet-Burial Society works in cooperation with the Green Burial Council in certifying eco-friendly pet cemeteries and maintains a list of participating providers including green cemeteries like Dust to Dust in Swansea, South Carolina., and the Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve in Glendale, Florida., that allow pet remains to be buried in family plots.

Some pet cemeteries, such as Pennsylvania's Keystone Pet Cemetery, offer "Bio Cremation," a process that uses alkaline hydrolysis instead of fire and boasts a dramatically reduced carbon footprint: It cuts natural gas usage by 90%, electricity usage by 66%, and CO2 emissions by 90%.

So there you have it -- the small but growing green pet burial movement. Not to be a Donald Downer, but if you have the chance, I'd also check out this story about pet estate planning (yes, estate planning ... there's quite a few wealthy animal heirs out there) and grieving. In the meantime, enjoy frolicking with your pets while you can.

© Copyright 2011 Mother Nature Network

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