...Evidence of burial dates back as far as 100,000 years (some say even farther), and that practice continues today, in the form of cemeteries, those places where we bury, memorialize, and gather to honor our dead. In examining the human-soil interface, OSU's Cemetery Studies Lab - the first of its kind - is taking the first steps to create the modern practice of sustainable cemetery management, ensuring that cemeteries can continue as places of natural beauty, habitat, contemplation and remembrance for generations to come.
We're all familiar with cemeteries, and yet how closely do we look at them? We take it for granted they'll always be "there", but what does "always" mean, really? How much does "always" cost, both in money and in natural resources? What are cemeteries doing now that may not be smart to do "forever"? And are there things that cemeteries could do better, practices that would ensure they're sustainable long into the future, that people will discover once they examine cemeteries deeply and can share what they come to know?
Who's impacted when cemeteries fail? How do we benefit when they succeed? Where are the good models, and what are they doing right? Currently, cemeteries use resources with little visible regard for impact on either the environment or the community around them, and rarely are they considered excellent caretakers of the land they manage. We suggest that can - and should - be different, and our projects are designed to facilitate that change
By studying the cemetery through the eyes of the various scientific, practical and academic disciplines most closely related to cemetery activity - the soil scientist, the sustainable landscape manager, the environmental health assessor, the cultural preservationist, the public policy planner, the citizen volunteer - our researchers will ask and answer the tough questions related to cemeteries that haven't been examined yet. With that knowledge, we'll gain a better understanding of how cemeteries work, and from that base we can contribute to good policy and best practice development.