An outside view of the Return to Nature funeral home
Funeral home director Jon Hallford still keeps his embalminglicense on the wall as a reminder of his past at a traditional funeral home.
Hallford, who opened Return to Nature Burial and Cremationin early September, spent around 18 years as an embalmer before deciding that he’d had enough. Research led him to discover the toxicity of embalming practices, particularly the use of the formaldehyde-based substance, formalin.
“It is one of the highest, most cancer-causing agents thatexists,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve probably got tumors just shaking hands and growing in my head right now from the amount of fluid that I’ve ingested throughout the years.”
Embalming can also harm a city’s water supply, Hallfordsays.
“When you’re embalming somebody what excess fluid is left inthat tank just goes right down the drain.”
Hallford searched for an alternative method that would beless threatening to the environment. Green burial ended up being the solution.
Hallford gave up his position as an embalmer to open a green funeral home in Colorado Springs with his wife and a business partner.
At Return to Nature, Hallford takes a bare bones approach. Insteadof pumping bodies full of harsh carcinogenic substances, bodies are kept on dry ice during viewing and buried without elaborate metal caskets or concrete vaults.
Everything else is the same, Hallford insists. Customers can choose to have loved ones buried in a casket or opt for cremation. Staff will still put makeup, (mineral-based, of course), on the body for viewing. Nearly all products are biodegradable or made from recycled materials. At one service, visitors released biodegradable balloons into the air in honor of a loved one.
Hallford is even in the process of installing an alkalinehydrolysis system, a metal chamber that uses water and lye for the cremation process. According to Hallford, the procedure is much cleaner than traditional cremation, which releases carbon into the atmosphere.
Hallford wants others to compare Return to Nature’s rates with those of other funeral homes.
"It’s less expensive,” Hallford says, “I encouragefamilies — compare apples to apples. Go and see what their services consist of versus what ours do.”
Return to Nature’s location is quaint; no chapel or large viewingroom. There's no cemetery, either — the funeral home uses either Fairview or Evergreen cemeteries. When the Indy most recently reported on green burials in 2009, neither cemetery at the time was allowing green burials. The first certified natural cemetery in Colorado was opened in Crestone in 2012.
But Halford says that today, while there's not a specific designated area at either cemetery, green burials are permitted cemetery-wide.