It seems that almost everything these days is going green, from diapers to cleaning products to clothes. Now, some Angelenos will be able to rest in peace knowing they’ve taken that one last eco-friendly step – an environmentally sensitive grave.

Hillside Memorial Park & Mortuary, a Jewish cemetery in Culver City, will begin offering “green burial” services next summer after breaking ground for some 90 plots on its 45-acre property.

So what exactly is a green burial?

It generally does not involve embalming chemicals. The body is put in a biodegradable casket, made perhaps of pine or bamboo. Another key element: Caskets are placed directly into the ground and not inside concrete vaults, a common practice at U.S. cemeteries. Dust to dust is so much faster that way.

For Hillside, the green process also means the cemetery will be able to offer a traditional Orthodox Jewish burial, which involves wrapping the body in a shroud and burying it either without a casket or with a very simple one made without synthetic glues.

Observant Jewish families seeking such a burial have been known to ship the bodies of their loved ones to Israel, said Paul Goldstein, general manager of Hillside, which is owned by Temple Israel of Hollywood.

“I think it’ll add to our business,” he said. “It’ll serve a section of the community that is looking for green burial or a more traditional (religious) burial that would otherwise go somewhere else.”

Green burials have been growing more popular, though there have only been two cemeteries that offer them in the state: Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley began in 2004 and Joshua Tree Memorial Park followed in 2008. Hillside will be the first in Los Angeles.

Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the state’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, said there are no state regulations requiring concrete vaults. However, cemeteries often require them, saying that they prevent the ground from settling.

Hillside declined to offer any pricing, but Goldstein said the green plots will be comparable in cost to regular burials. He said there is already a waiting list for them. Still, it remains to be seen just how many people want the service.

Joe Sehee, founder of the non-profit Green Burial Council, a Santa Fe, N.M., advocacy group, expects the current generation of younger people will want green burials. Some day.

“They’re not quite ready to die yet,” he said.

– Bailey Brewer

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