Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Brandon Trelstad
Submission Date April 30, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Oregon State University
IN-3: Innovation 3

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Brandon Trelstad
Sustainability Coordinator
Sustainability Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Introduction to Sustainable Cemetery Management – a new course for an old field

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

Introduction to Sustainable Cemetery Management (SCM) is a new course created to meet the needs of professional cemetery operators who want to improve the sustainability of their cemeteries; researchers seeking new areas of study; and 2-year funeral service graduates or current university students seeking to enhance their future job-market potential in an underserved field.

As of December, 2014, there are an estimated 40,000 – 45,000 active cemeteries in the US, representing approximately 11 billion dollars a year of revenue (not counting funeral service activity), with no university-level coursework available in the US. Cemeteries are muti-century operations with virtually no evidence-based oversight and a history of mismanagement and eventual abandonment.

The general public can be fiscally and personally impacted by the failure of cemeteries; educating managers in applying triple-bottom line concepts of sustainability – focusing on resource use reduction, enhancing habitat, serving a diversity of cultures, and mitigating future pollution potential – provide lasting benefits for businesses, communities and individuals.

The online course, run by the Soil Science Department, began in the FY14 performance year, and was offered Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Fall 2014 (and continues into 2015, with new course aspects planned). This is the first course of its kind that we know of.


A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):

The course, although not yet high in numbers, attracts a diverse range of students. They range in age from 22-47. Of the 15 who have completed the beta runs of the course, 53% are general public or professional members, 27% are OSU distance learners, and 20% are on campus at OSU. While the course is offered online, its faculty also engages on campus students through soil service learnings offered at affiliated cemeteries, exposing students to the potentials of cemetery work and marketing the course.

Students also share their discovered resources with the broader community, extending the benefit beyond just themselves. As part of their course work, the students assemble online resources for cemetery use in improving sustainability and have gathered over 1000 links on cemetery law, historic preservation in cemeteries, spanning 7 of the 10 USDA Regions.

Finally, most of the outgoing students surveyed state that they either intend to someday volunteer at a cemetery, seek work at a cemetery, or enhance their current work by engaging cemeteries in some way related to improving habitat, reducing resource use or engaging people in local history. Most also state that the course has changed their perspective on cemeteries, allowing them to see the value of sustainable cemetery management for future generations, and more than half have indicated they wish to stay involved with the program as it grows in the future.


A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of five):
Yes or No
Curriculum Yes
Research ---
Campus Engagement ---
Public Engagement Yes
Air & Climate ---
Buildings ---
Dining Services ---
Energy ---
Grounds Yes
Purchasing ---
Transportation ---
Waste ---
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance ---
Diversity & Affordability ---
Health, Wellbeing & Work ---
Investment ---

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:
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The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

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