Campo de Estrellas in Episcopal News Service

From the article by BY HEATHER BEASLEY DOYLE, see link above for full article
” Episcopalians are helping to shape the future of funeral practices as people increasingly consider the economic and environmental costs of typical American burials, while also seeking to reconnect with the circular nature of life and death in the natural world.”

“In 2016, Cindy Ybarra bought the 30 acres of land that have become the conservation cemetery. “I’ve been keenly aware of the environmental crisis to the point of almost despairing, so this gives me the feeling of doing all that I can to address it,” she said. After Cindy read the book “Wilding,” she and her son Michael decided to somehow return the land to nature. They “almost jokingly” considered starting a cemetery, Michael said. When they met Sarah Wambold, a licensed funeral director who had left the mainstream funeral industry, the idea was no longer a joke. Wambold was eager to meet the Ybarras, with their land and vision.

“When the pandemic began, they had finished the legal work for the cemetery, but Covid-19 ruined plans to offer in-person green burial workshops. Wambold and Ybarras successfully changed that plan thanks to the creation care grant they received from The Episcopal Church in 2020. Michael and Cindy are both Episcopalians and Cindy is a member of St. Hildegard’s Community in Austin. The community’s priest, Judith Liro, helped apply for the grant on behalf of Campo de Estrellas.

“The money has allowed the co-founders to teach people throughout the United States about green burial practices via online workshops. “The grant came at the perfect time,” Cindy said. The trio considers education the most important part of their work. “We need people to start to think about these concepts and processes prior to a death occurring, and to ask the questions and to get comfortable,” Wambold said. No funerals have taken place at Campo de Estrellas yet, but eight people have indicated that when the time comes, they want to be buried at the conservation cemetery.

“Although few Americans choose natural burial, more than half of those surveyed by the National Funeral Directors Association expressed interest in green funerals. Founded in 2005 to demystify the options, the nonprofit Green Burial Council sets best practices for practitioners and answers consumer questions. Curiosity first peaked about five years ago, Green Burial Council President Edward Bixby said, adding that the pandemic has prompted more inquiries. Covid-19 “has made society reflect on their mortality,” he said. Most people who choose green burial for themselves are cremation converts, he said: “They didn’t realize that an option like this existed,” but it aligns with their values and desire for a more affordable burial.”

Campo de Estrellas Conservation Cemetery is located in Bastrop County near the city of Smithville.