Vancouver cemetery to allow strangers to share burial plots

Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver (Getty)

When it comes to progressive and sustainable burial options, Vancouver’s only cemetery is set to cover a lot of ground.

That’s because Vancouver city council recently approved Mountain View Cemetery to allow multiple burials per plot. Now, family members — or even groups of strangers — can be laid to rest in a single plot.

Glen Hodges, the manager of the cemetery, tells Yahoo Canada that the grounds have allowed families to re-use their casket burial capacity within one grave for a long time. While he admits that it’s a unique feature for the cemetery, it’s not unique when it comes to the legality.

“The provisions within the provincial legislations means that any cemetery can choose to allow families to do that,” he says. “We’re just the only cemetery that allowed it or specifically permitted it.”

A greener option

The concept of green burials started taking off in the UK several decades ago, with land conservation in mind. That trend made its way to North America, where Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria became the first cemetery to set aside a specific area for green burial. A green burial is when the person’s remains aren’t embalmed and are buried in biodegradable containers with no outer liner.

This new way of burying resonated with staff at Mountain View Cemetery since it gave those who wanted to consider the environmental impact of their final resting place an option within the city.

“We thought that if we combine the reuse of graves with some of these green burial concepts and specifically required biodegradable containers or shroud burials, that we might be able to get more optimal use of our highly limited casket space,” says Hodges.

Sharing plot spaces also gives people a more economically feasible choice in Vancouver. Since it has limited space, the market bears a heavy cost on what’s left.

“Using the plots more sustainably and optimally means we could also offer a less expensive option for people to consider a method for being buried within the city, rather than have to leave it and go to another cemetery,” says Hodges.

Welcome, stranger

While the cemetery has always allowed families to reuse their existing grave space, they will now facilitate strangers who don’t mind sharing a space with two or more people. Down the line, Hodges says they’d like to take it a step further and allow more people to be buried in the same plot over several decades.

“If we’re down to 400 or 500 casket burial spaces in the cemetery, the previous option was we’d have to sell them to 400 or 500 people and that’s it,” he says. “Now we’re talking about the potential of getting 1,000 to 1,500 people to use that space and in another few decades, maybe another 1,000 or 1,500. All of a sudden those 500 spaces can serve thousands of people, forever.”

The changes are set to go into effect in January 2020.