CEDAR CREEK, Texas (KXAN) - No metal caskets. No embalming. Just a body in something biodegradable, becoming one with the earth.
Green burial sites are growing in the United States with at least three in Texas. One of those is right outside Austin – Eloise Woods Community Natural Burial Park.
Amanda McRae's family chose Eloise Woods for her final resting place. She died in 2011 at age 34 after battling lung cancer.
"This is the gravesite of my wife," said her husband Burk McRae, as he sat on a stump near her grave. "We celebrated our eighth anniversary a month before she passed away."
Burk watched their son, Ashley, 6, play with a pile of leaves near the woods about 10 miles east of Austin and about 20 miles west of Bastrop. In life, Burk said his wife loved being outside with her family and their dog, Frieda.
"My wife joked that (Frieda) was her engagement to me," Burk laughed. "We bought a dog, and that was a big deal. Everyone was like, 'Oh, you bought a dog together, right?'"
Texas requires that all burial plots - green or not - be located a certain distance from city limits. That distance increases depending on population size.
Ellen Macdonald, owner and manager of Eloise Woods, explained, "A new cemetery near a city as large as Austin needs to be at least 5 miles from the 5-mile ETJ – the extraterritorial jurisdiction - in other words, 10 miles from the Austin city limits."
"Bodies are allowed to decompose naturally - the way nature intended," said Macdonald.
State law also says there are rules for the depth a body is buried. Bodies in an impermeable container like a wooden or metal container must be 18 inches below ground, while bodies in a permeable container like a shroud or basket need to be 24 inches under the ground. In Texas, people must keep burial records in order to know where a grave is in the future.
Texas law also allows for families to skip the embalming process. But the body must either be buried within 24 hours or preserved through a method like refrigeration until that time.
MacDonald opened Eloise Woods a few years ago, and the "green" idea keeps growing. There have been 25 human burials so far. Each one has been very personal and unique - especially Amanda's.
"He had his whole family up here and his friends, and they dug the grave themselves," said MacDonald. "Children came up to help, and then they lowered the body in themselves with a quilt."
But the family soon suffered another loss.
"Six months later, my dog died of bone cancer," Burk explained. "It felt like - in many ways - I was losing little, small parts of my wife that were just sort of being peeled away from my life."
Another benefit of a "green burial" is that some parks often let pets be buried alongside their loved ones. 37 pets are currently buried at Eloise Woods.
"I don't think it would be possible to pick a better place or a better way to honor her memory," he added.
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