La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime) previously had five "traditional" cemeteries and nearly 27,000 sites. Located in the Mireuil district, a sixth now offers 105 more, including 20 doubles. What's so special about it? This cemetery is intended to be "ecological", entirely grassed and wooded. Above all, it formally forbids tombs and tombstones. Even mortuary plaques and artificial flowers are not allowed to be mentioned.
Only a small natural stone plaque will be affixed to mention the name of the deceased buried in this half-hectare green space. The coffins must be made of untreated wood or cardboard. Synthetic fibres will be banned: clothes and shrouds must be made with natural fibres. Finally, no act of embalming – the care of preserving a body – should be provided.
Concession of up to 30 years
This "return to nature" corresponds to "a strong societal demand from our fellow citizens who do not wish to pollute more after their death", explains Chantal Vetter, the deputy mayor of La Rochelle in charge of – among other things – nature in the city and cemeteries. Although more than half of the population of La Rochelle chose cremation, "many people asked us the question and waited for an alternative offer such as this ecological cemetery. Some would even like to go further with humusation – the natural transformation of bodies into humus – but the law still strictly prohibits it," explains the elected official.
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In this eco-friendly cemetery, concessions will be granted for a maximum period of 30 years, compared to 50 years for a traditional concession. In these conditions, the bodies will decompose more quickly, says Chantal Vetter, who also mentions the economic aspect of this less expensive choice compared to a traditional funeral. Please note: it is not possible to reserve a site in this cemetery. The deceased will have to express their intention during their lifetime, "for example by drawing up their advance directives," says the elected representative from La Rochelle.