Become A Tree Green Burial Project Team

Michael Foster, Board Member

I worked with families for twenty years as a mental health counselor in agencies, schools, private practice and the Oregon high desert. For years, I was also lucky enough to facilitate teen groups on ‘challenge’ activities and led wilderness Rite of Passage treks in Olympic National Park. Like so many visitors, I fell in love with this place. For another eight years, I volunteered with environmental community action groups, mostly around the Sound.

What brings me to this project:

When I die, I hope to become one small part of the Peninsula. Hopefully shared with others, preserving shared greenspace with our bodies, in perpetuity.

For 30 years, my mother has lived in Port Angeles. My partner Sue and I began housesitting locally to better get to know people and neighborhoods, looking for a fertile place to plant ourselves and establish this green burial community. We connected with new friends through Dying Matters Guild events.

I’m gently nudging this dream project forward to leave no trace when I go, shielding a few acres from development with my body and our care.

Personally, my vision imagines offering available spaces for families facing loss through a gift-based, no-fee, model to remove one of the financial shocks of modern death and loss. After all, a natural burial site comes with near-zero maintenance costs – that’s great for grieving families. No mortgage, volunteer caretakers living low-footprint and rent-free onsite, plus community interns and more volunteers remove staffing costs. This space becomes the people’s place.

Since early in my childhood, I never considered death as something apart. For me, using my body to foster a few trees, fern, grass and soil feels as central to my life as most things I have accomplished while alive. So I’m inviting everyone to help us co-create a place where we might all go green easily when our time comes, more a community death library or nature preserve than modern cemetery, a place for all of us to give ourselves back to nurture life all around us.

Sue Lenander, Board Member

Sue recently retired from Seattle Children’s Hospital as a Medical Assistant, after 10 years of service. Prior to that, Sue worked in a Cancer Treatment Center for 10 years as an Oncology/Hospice Massage Therapist. Sue is also co-founder, former Board President and current Board Secretary of Climate Action Families, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

She trained with Vice President Al Gore to become a Climate Reality speaker, giving climate justice presentations at churches, community organizations, hospitals and schools. 

Sue trained with environmental activist, author, and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy to facilitate grief groups honoring and processing our pain for the Earth. 

Her BA in child development and education gave her the skills to thrive in the role of Youth Program Coordinator for Seattle Plant for the Planet. 

As a volunteer with 350 Seattle, Sue was a Board member, Leadership Team member and a proud Kayaktivist.

What brings me to this project:

I believe it is an honor to be alive on this magic planet, with all the diverse sentient beings. I feel a responsibility to be a protector of the earth, in my life and in my death. Everyone should have the opportunity to choose a natural burial that conserves forested wildlife corridors for all time. Become a Tree Conservation Burial Ground will provide that space..

Cassidy Grattan, Board Member

Cassidy is a public educator in the Port Angeles School District. Prior to teaching, he worked as a wildlife biologist for 15 years. He was born and raised in Clallam County and, after a few years of living out of state, has returned to the area with his partner and daughter..

What brings me to this project:

After visiting and being inspired by a number of conservation/green burials and talking to a few directors of these cemeteries I am excited to be a part of bringing one (or more!) to our area. Conservation burial combines a few of my passions including habitat restoration/preservation and re-imaging our culture’s relationship to death.

Leonard Higgins, Project Support

Leonard retired in 2010 from a 31 year career with Oregon state agencies focused on budget, contracts and project management for large IT projects. He credits his awakening about social justice and climate change threats to a 2007 workshop from Joanna Macy, and her book, “Active Hope”. He believes in the Unitarian Universalist principles including “The inherent worth and dignity of every person”, and “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”.

What brings me to this project:

Michael and Sue are dear friends and I love their healing vision doing what they can to support life with green burial practices and conservation of land and forests.