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Pierce County cemeteries adapting new burial trends as population grows

Some cemeteries have added gardens for cremains and others are exploring other methods of burial that promote sustainability.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — With populations in Pierce County increasing, recent burial trends are providing more space for traditional burials on plots of land. 

"With the cremation ratio kind of taking over the traditional casket burial, much less space is needed, so we're able to do a lot more with less space than 50 years ago," said Scott DeCarteret, the manager of Sumner Cemetery. 

Three years ago, Sumner added a section of the cemetery called "Heritage Farm," a fenced-in area that has spots for urns under cherry and apple trees or among the shrubbery. There is even a tractor and a wishing well. 

"It has a more natural feel, like your own backyard," said DeCarteret. 

In Lakewood, Mountain View Funeral Home and Memorial Park created the Rainier Cremation Garden, which has marble pedestals with spaces for urns surrounded by a stone fire pit and fountains. 

Clarke Thomson, the general manager of Mountain View, said the trend is a balance between how the consumer wants to memorialize their loved one and what's best for sustainability. 

Although both Sumner and Mountain View have plenty of acres left to serve families in Pierce Counties for decades, space will ultimately become an issue. 

Cremation is one a way to start thinking of space conservation years before it's necessary. Sustainability and costs have made cremations a popular option. 

Other burial alternatives are becoming increasingly popular in the name of sustainability, like composting bodies.  

While Sumner Cemetery cannot compost bodies, DeCarteret said his team is exploring options to reserve some land to place soil to plant a tree or some other plant. 

He's also planning on creating another area for green burials -- a casket-less burial where the deceased is simply placed under the soil with no embalming necessary. 

"That does away with the vaults and liners and you actually bury someone right into the earth," he said. 

In an industry that isn't often associated with innovation, DeCarteret said it's an exciting time to be in the burial business. 

"It may seem off, but it is true. We care about what we do and we're excited about finding new ways to serve people and honor people's lives and honor our community," he said.

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