Parisians will now be able to reduce their carbon footprints even after death: A 17,000-square-foot section with 150 green-burial plots has opened in the Southern suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine. It is part of the larger City of Paris Cemetery in Ivry-sur-Seine, operated by the city.
According to Pénélope Komitès, deputy mayor in charge of funerary affairs, the city’s first eco-friendly burial ground is another initiative in the fight against climate change. “To keep with our ambition and Paris’s target to be carbon neutral by 2050, no field can be forgotten,” said Komitès. In 2015, Paris already started this initiative by banning the use of pesticides in all 20 of its cemeteries, which total more than 1,000 acres.
The city has now devoted a section of the public cemetery to green burials. Meaning lower-carbon, chemical-free burials—with wooden grave markers used in place of tombstones (which the government will replace every 10 years). Any coffins and urns will have to be made out of biodegradable supplies, using cardboard or unvarnished native wood, and bodies will have to be clothed in pure biodegradable fibers.
Historically, the French have preferred burials, but cremation has become popular in the past few decades. Going from 1 percent of funerals in 1980 to 36 percent in 2016, partly due to environmental motivations.
A 2017 examine carried out on the request of the Metropolis of Paris discovered that conventional burials generate, on average, 833 kilograms (or nearly 1 ton) of carbon dioxide, which is essentially a round-trip flight between Paris and New York. Cremation produces a median of 233 kilograms (500 kilos), and a burial and not using a tombstone, 182 kilograms (400 kilos).
Camille Strozecki, founder of the funeral company Pompes Funèbres 1887, which operates in greater Paris, has seen growing attention to environmental concerns among clients planning their own funerals. “A lot of people tell us the environment is important to them, and many go into fairly complex planning, even thinking about how their relatives and friends will use transportation to their funerals and how they can reduce their carbon footprint,” he said.
Green burials will also offer a financial incentive from the government. According to the city, the 10-year cost of a burial spot will be about 20 percent lower than in a regular cemetery. The city will also provide the wooden markers.
Komitès said the city plans on opening 2,000 more green burial plots in coming years.