From: Reuters
Published March 11, 2008 12:59 AM

Australian cemetery to offer carbon-free funerals

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian cemetery has unveiled plans to take the carbon out of cremations by offering new green funerals to help combat global warming.

On the day Australia's formal ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse emissions comes into force, the Centennial Park cemetery in the South Australian state capital of Adelaide said it had studied the carbon impact of burials and cremations.

While cremations initially produce more carbon emissions than a burial, cemetery chief executive Bryan Elliott said over time, burials ended up producing about 10 percent more greenhouse gas.

"If we plant one tree for every service, either burial or cremation, we will more than offset the carbon emissions," Elliott told Reuters on Tuesday.

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The Centennial Park Cemetery carries out more than 900 burials and around 3,300 cremations a year. Elliott said every cremation created around 160 kg (353 pounds) of carbon dioxide, compared to 39 kg of carbon dioxide for each burial.

But when the cost of maintaining grave sites, mostly covered by lawns at Centennial Park, is taken into account, cremations came out 10 percent greener than burials.

"This is because we must look after the gravesite for a number of years by watering and mowing the surrounding lawn area and maintaining the concrete beam on which the headstone is placed," Elliott said.

"Burial is a more labor and resource intensive process, consumes more fuels and produces larger quantities of waste than cremation."

The move was prompted by local calls for natural burials, where a tree is planted over a grave. But those proposals would not work in a major suburban cemetery, where space is limited and graves can be re-used, Elliott said.

In South Australia, graves are leased for only 50 years, and they can then be re-used if relatives do not the renew the lease.

Elliott said the cemetery planned to bear the cost of carbon offsets and would not charge more for funerals as it attempts to cut its greenhouse emissions, blamed for global warming.

(Reporting by James Grubel)

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