Brothers Sean and Trevor Crean at the gate to Heritage Gardens in South Surrey. The cemetery recently achieved ‘green burial’ certification. (File photo)

South Surrey cemetery earns Green Burial status

Option offers ‘a very simple, very pure return’

The latest buzz at Surrey’s newest cemetery is its green certification – and, thousands of honeybees.

Heritage Gardens’ Trevor Crean said the distinction by the Green Burial Society of Canada was achieved in early May, and is a first in Metro Vancouver.

“It’s kind of given us the credibility that, yeah, we’re on the right track,” Crean said last week, describing the green-burial option as among initiatives at the South Surrey cemetery that are going to “be really what defines us in terms of setting us aside from the status quo.”

Beehives were also new to the 8.5-acre property in May, and Crean expects the first honey harvest to take place in September.

“We’ve let about a third of our property grow into a pollinating meadow,” he noted.

The family-owned, co-operative cemetery opened last fall in the 19000-block of 16 Avenue. It includes gardens for faith groups, an ossuary and the ability to place up to 10 family members in one plot – using a configuration of two caskets and up to eight cremated remains.

READ MORE: New South Surrey cemetery ‘aims to keep families together’

READ MORE: New cemetery could be ‘time capsule’ of community, owner says

Crean said as a whole, the intent of the model is to create a place where people want to return to – something which is not typical of cemeteries.

“The cemetery, the old model of it is kind of a sombre thing, it’s not a place that people want to be,” he said.

“You don’t have a choice when you’ve lost somebody, so we wanted to be a place that people want to come back and reflect, and have celebrations or celebrate milestones of birthdays, anniversaries of losing a loved one – feel comfortable coming out for a picnic and checking in on what we’re up to out there, maybe get a jar of honey along the way.

“We just wanted to be so much more inclusive rather than that kind of traditional transaction.”

The green option, he said, is getting engagement, as families mull how they want to return to the earth, as inside a cement vault, with no connection to the environment, is no longer the only choice.

The certification process was “rigorous,” Crean added, noting “very strict” criteria includes no chemical preparation of the body and “absolutely” no cremation. As well, any clothing worn by the decedent must be biodegradable.

“Basically, you can’t get buried with your Nikes. It’s all a very simple, very pure return.”

The first ‘green garden’ is about 200 spaces, with room for more if it proves a popular choice. So far, it’s just over 10 per cent reserved.

Noting cemetery space is in short supply, Crean said there is a need for sustainable alternatives to single-use plots.

He envisions his own remains going in the corner near the beehives, however, there’s “no rush,” he said.

Crean added that the honey aspect is not planned for revenue-generation, but as a gesture for families visiting a loved one lost.

“It’s just one little thing we can do… sweeten the time for folks. I just think there’s so much room for cemeteries to up our contribution to community.”

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