- Zahria Rogers
- Cremation remains a more affordable option.
Hallford, who opened the green burial company Return to Nature Burial and Cremation in early September with his wife and a business partner, 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, which embalmers inject into bodies to preserve them for viewing.
“It is one of the highest, most cancer-causing agents that exists,” he says.
Embalming can also harm a city’s water supply, Hallford says. “When you’re embalming somebody, what excess fluid is left in that tank just goes right down the drain.”
And some use more than just embalming fluid, Hallford says, including stringent dyes, solvents and cleaners, like Dri Cav, a potent, pink liquid that helps rid bodies of fluid. Even cremation releases dioxins, toxic byproducts of waste incineration and other industrial processes, into the atmosphere.
Green burials have lately gained popularity. The Green Burial Council (GBC), a New Mexico-based advocacy organization that also certifies funeral homes and cemeteries, lists three funeral homes and one cemetery in Colorado that use GBC-approved practices. It notes that in 2006 there was just one GBC-approved provider in North America — now there are more than 300.
At Return to Nature, Hallford takes a bare bones approach. Instead of pumping bodies full of harsh carcinogenic substances, bodies are kept on dry ice during viewing, though staff will still put mineral-based makeup on the body.
Customers can choose to have loved ones buried in a casket or opt for cremation. Instead of elaborate metal caskets or concrete vaults, nearly all products are biodegradable or made from recycled materials. (Hallford is in the process of installing an alkaline hydrolysis system at his business, a metal chamber that uses water and lye for the cremation process. According to Hallford, the procedure is 76 percent cleaner than traditional cremation.)
For Tesia Inskeep, the decision to choose Return to Nature’s cremation services after the passing of her 37-year-old husband had more to do with the company’s customer service than its green mission. However, she says, “I like the whole environmentally-friendly thing.”
At her husband’s nontraditional ceremony, Inskeep says guests launched biodegradable balloons, sang karaoke and ate pizza. Inskeep says Hallford and his staff were accommodating and “made everything easy.”
Still, some might want to stick with traditional burial practices. “It’s just a matter of personal preference,” says Paul Wood, co-owner of The Springs Funeral Services, which has two locations in Springs.
The Springs Funeral Services has offered green burial since it opened 10 years ago, but it offers
traditional burial services too. Wood says clients may choose to embalm a body if someone was involved in an accident. “Typically, the body looks better if it is embalmed,” he says.
The Springs Funeral Services charges $450 for embalming, which doesn’t include service fees and the cost of a casket. A basic cremation starts at $1,187. Calls around to other local funeral homes found that cremation alone generally costs upwards of $550.
Return to Nature charges $990 for a basic cremation, and, of course, there’s no embalming fee. Green burial without a funeral service costs $935. For now, those who choose a cemetery burial can pick a plot at Fairview or Evergreen cemeteries.
But Hallford says he hopes to one day open a site specifically for green burials. That wouldn’t be as groundbreaking as it sounds— in 2012, Crestone opened Colorado’s first certified natural cemetery.