Ecologically friendly burials


Adapted from Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Having long thought that expensive coffins and other accoutrements of human burials are a waste of money and not particularly good for the environment (I’ve had somewhat awkward arguments about this with relatives after family deaths) I applaud this week’s opening of “The Ellipse,’’ at beautiful Swan Point Cemetery, on Providence’s East Side. This will be an area for burials in which, the cemetery administration says, “a

process is followed by which all elements going into the earth are biodegradable, ‘’ most especially, of course, the corpses. Hold the preservatives and the metal coffin handles!

(But cremation is the neatest way to go.)

Of course, except in those rare families with strong genealogical interests, knowledge of, and interest in, our ancestors is pretty much nonexistent beyond our grandparents’ generation. We fade into the past remarkably fast.


I do like visiting Oak Grove Cemetery in Falmouth, Mass., which was founded in 1848 but includes the remains of plenty of 18th Century (and maybe even late 17th Century) people moved there from family graveyards. In a sign of how stable small-town life was in those days, there are dozens of what’s left of my ancestors there, including some recent entrants. I was mildly disappointed to learn that there’s no room left for myself and my immediate family. But then I thought: Why take up room?

Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the lyrics for “American the Beautiful,’’ is buried in Oak Grove.