70 participants representing a range of backgrounds, industry experience, and professional expertise gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the first-ever Green Funeral Conference. Hosted by CANA and Passages International, attendees, presenters, and sponsors arrived with questions and gaps in knowledge that they hoped to fill and apply to their businesses. No one left disappointed.

The event commenced with an opening reception hosted by Garfield Refining. This informal gathering set the tone for the rest of the Conference, opening the door to productive networking and information sharing. “CANA and Passages created a space for professionals to share best practices, solutions, and successes,” said Glenda Stansbury of InSight Institutue, who served as the event emcee. “Our presenters were amazing. However, as happens at the best events, great content was shared and developed off the stage among the attendees as well.”

The Conference officially kicked off with sessions that “Set the Stage” by presenting an introduction to the continuum of green funeral practices. Ed Bixby shared the origins and work of the Green Burial Council. Darren Crouch and Kilian Rempen of Passages International rounded out the morning by discussing green products and marketing tactics. The shrouding demo—a Conference highlight—was next, with participants volunteering to be shrouded and carried by others, offering a valuable opportunity to practice techniques.

Next, participants considered how to “Put it into Practice.” Jody Herrington described her success in converting funeral home selection rooms to include green merchandise, followed by a practitioner panel—Donal Key and Linda Canyon of La Puerta Natural Burial Ground, Gracie Griffin of Bellfontaine Cemetery, Salvador Perches of Grupo Perches and Recinto de la Oracion, Ed Bixby, and Jody Herrington—continuing the conversation around green burial practices and tips for creating and offering green options in existing cemeteries. Next up was Tanya Marsh, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law, who examined the legal trends surrounding green burials and green cemeteries. The day ended with a tour of Passages International and a group dinner.

The third series of Conference presentations focused on “Consumer Insights.” Gail Rubin shared her perspective on consumer views of death and mourning. Barbara Kemmis moderated a panel on the environmental impact of cremation with Luis Llorens of US Cremation Equipment and Paul Seyler of Matthews Environmental. A second panel, with Sam Sieber of Bio-Response and Nicki Mikolai of Resomation U.S., addressed alkaline hydrolysis. During the final session of roundtables, the full spectrum of green funeral practices was addressed: cremation, green burial, alkaline hydrolysis, burial at sea, legal topics, and consumer insights.

In summing up the high level of engagement with the topics at hand, CANA Executive Director Barbara Kemmis said, “It was a challenge to interrupt the energy and great conversations in the room to start the next session. That is a great problem to have.”

“We are really pleased with participant response to this first-ever Green Conference,” added Darren Crouch. “We look forward to helping formulate the next steps in this ongoing adventure.”

Those unable to attend the conference will be happy to note that recordings of each session will be available for purchase in future. Watch the online education section of the CANA website for details: https://www.cremationassociation.org/page/eduonline.

Passages International, Inc. has been leading the green sector of the funeral industry for 20 years, with the largest selection of innovative, environmentally-friendly urns, caskets, and memorial products. For more information on green funerals and their benefits visit www.aGreenerFuneral.org. For more information on Passages products visit www.PassagesInternational.com.

Founded in 1913, the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) is an international organization of over 3,300 members, composed of funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories, industry suppliers, and consultants. CANA members believe that cremation is preparation for memorialization.  For more information about CANA, visit www.CremationAssociation.org.