Guest Blog: Terry and Amanda Robertson on the Environmental and Economic Benefits of Green BurialsNov 04, 2020 10:10AM ● By Terry Robertson
Twenty years ago, I sat in front of the Chief of Head and Neck Surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with the unenviable task of processing my prognosis – a 30% chance to live 5 years. I was a 30 year-old funeral director and embalmer who had been diagnosed with a rare synovial sarcoma of the neck; it was surmised that my daily exposure to formalin – a chemical in embalming fluid used as a preserving agent for decedents – contributed to my condition. At that time, I had no idea how this experience would shape my journey as the owner of a funeral home and now, conservation burial ground.
Robertson Funeral & Cremation Service serves roughly 250 to 300 families per year and sees more families each year that seek an alternative to the “traditional funeral”. The traditional funeral changed shape following Abraham Lincoln’s death in 1865. Before then, families held services at their home in their parlor, which was typically the nicest room in the home. The family member would lie in repose for the town folk to pay their respects prior to the burial, which typically took place on the family property. Family members were an integral part of the entire process, including the burial. Each grave was dug by hand and the decedent, usually in a pine box, was lowered into the grave. Following Lincoln’s assassination and the three-week tour of his embalmed body lying in state across several places in the U.S., the preserved, casketed body gained acceptance and the funeral and cemetery began to take over more control and monetize the process into what is the modern day funeral industry.
Over my 25 years in the industry, I have established relationships with respected colleagues, professionals and mentors. I genuinely believe that the funeral or “death care” industry is overwhelmingly composed of dedicated professionals and counselors who wake up every day ready to walk with families during one of the worst days in their lives. I also believe that the industry’s traditional infrastructure and overhead does not compliment the ever-growing trend of families seeking more personalized options and lower costs. If you are a funeral home owner who sits in your 7,000 square-foot funeral home which you have to heat, cool, and maintain, and for which you must pay taxes, a mortgage and funeral directors who sit with you and drive the hearse and limos you have parked outside - you depend on profit to pay these costs. Fifty years ago, the most common question you would ask the family you served would be, “What type of casket do you prefer, metal or wood?” Over the past twenty-five years, the most common question I have asked my families is, “Did John prefer cremation or burial?” Seven out of ten respond, “Cremation.”
Today, there is a new family that has begun to walk through my door. This family is not interested in the bells and whistles. They are not interested in “the show” at the funeral home the evening prior to the service. They are not interested in a long limo procession to the cemetery, the vault, or the urn vault that awaits their loved one’s casket or cremains. They are not interested in contributing to the 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete vaults buried in our country each year, which encase the caskets made from imported steel from China and exotic woods from South America, which in turn encase each body which has been infused with approximately 3 gallons of carcinogenic formalin-based embalming fluid. (See Terry’s synovial sarcoma above).
This family is interested in a simple, non-invasive, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective option. They desire transparent pricing for burial. They are interested in a natural, outdoor experience and ritual that contributes to the natural eco-cycle while celebrating the life their loved one has lived. No bells, no whistles, no fluff. This family is interested in green burial.
My wife Amanda and I took a leap of faith over a year ago to create an option that otherwise did not exist for the greater Charlotte area. On October 17th of this year, we finally realized our dream with the grand opening of the 38-acre Kings Mountain Preserve, www.kingsmountainpreserve.com, a beautiful and majestic conservation burial ground in Blacksburg, SC (just south of Kings Mountain State Park). We are certified with the Green Burial Council and partnered with Upstate Forever Land Trust, a certified land trust which enforces a perpetual conservation easement to protect our beautiful land and water for the enjoyment of future generations. No vaults, metal caskets or toxic embalming fluid is permitted, only 100% biodegradable caskets and shrouds. We provide river stones as grave markers which families can have engraved.
Our retreat center www.kingsmountainretreatcenter.com sleeps 6 and accommodates groups for meetings, church, spiritual and wellness retreats as well as weddings. Our outdoor pavilion seats approximately 100 and overlooks the Preserve. There are approximately 3 miles of trails that run throughout the property crossing over Kings Creek and providing access to Kings Creek Chapel – a unique outdoor chapel nestled in the middle of the forest with hand made cedar benches constructed of sustainable timber from the property.
Currently we offer 250 whole body burial sites as well as 300 cremains burial sites on the property which, under the conservation easement, will allow for nearly 9,000 in the future. We hand dig each grave, separating the three separate layers of soil and replace those layers in the order they were taken out. We mix cremains with an amendment which minimizes the high level of alkalinity and allows us to plant ferns in the space which literally grow out of the cremains. Each whole-body grave is also restored with native plants on from the Preserve.
Amanda and I are so proud to be a part of an endeavor that benefits our environment as well as our community. We hope you contact us to schedule a tour or take some time for yourself to hike, rest, reflect, or just breathe in the fresh air at the Kings Mountain Preserve.
For more information or to connect with the Robertson's, email [email protected], call 877-375-2495 or visit KingsMountainPreserve.com.
Kings Mountain Preserve is a 36-acre green burial ground in Blacksburg, SC located approximately 20 minutes from Historic Kings Mountain State Park. The property boasts majestic hardwoods... Read More »