Taipei City is stepping up efforts to encourage “green” funerals as part of an environmental awareness campaign by asking its residents to consider cremation and natural disposal of ashes rather than other types of burials.
The environmental campaign includes an annual Joint Sea Burial event that is scheduled to take place on May 11, in collaboration with New Taipei City (新北市) and Taoyuan County.
The event, promoted under the slogan “Come with the winds and go with the waves,” invites families to take part in a joint burial at sea in waters off the nation’s northwestern coast.
In addition to sea burials, the Taipei City Government is also promoting the idea of burying the ashes of the deceased in biodegradable containers instead of storing them in mausoleums or ossuaries.
Such containers include cotton bags that could be buried next to trees or in flower gardens, the city government said.
The city has allocated NT$18 million (US$610,000) this year to set up a special flower burial site adjacent to Yangmingshan National Park, said Yang Yi-lin (楊薏霖), deputy superintendent of the Taipei Mortuary Services Office.
Yang said 6,000 cemetery plots in a 1.8 hectare green area would fit perfectly into the tranquil landscape.
Different types of flowers, including Yangmingshan’s famous azaleas, will be planted there in different seasons, he added.
“One of the advantages of green funerals is that whatever form they take, they still have profound emotional appeal,” Yang said.
Yang cited a story in which a Japanese woman, whose ashes were scattered at sea because of her indelible memories of a happy childhood in Taiwan, touched many people’s hearts.
Since 2003 — when the city’s green burial program was launched — 3,158 Taipei residents have chosen natural burials and the number jumped from 584 in 2010 to 811 last year, according to the mortuary office.
The aim of the program is to reduce the impact of funerals on the environment and to allow for sustainable development of a small densely populated area, the office added.
“There are many benefits to green funerals,” Yang said. “Above all, it is about being more open-minded.”