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Cemetery Dedicates Area for Eco-friendly Burials
Michael C. Gabriele
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, April 22, 2010
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MAHWAH, N.J. (CNS)—Maryrest Cemetery, one of the 10 Catholic cemeteries owned and operated by the Newark Archdiocese, has a new section dedicated to natural burials and green funerals.

It's believed to be one of the first Catholic cemeteries in the state to reserve grounds for eco-friendly burials.

Andrew P. Schafer, executive director of the archdiocese's cemeteries, said the green burial site was developed in response to consumer requests and is part of a multiyear, multimillion dollar renovation and expansion of Maryrest.

Cemetery officials had planned to make the option available later this year but pushed plans ahead after getting word from Robert Prout, director of Prout Funeral Home in Verona, about a family who was requesting a more natural burial for their father.

After meeting with Prout and the family at Maryrest, Schafer agreed to accommodate their request. Despite the winter weather, cemetery workers prepared a section of the cemetery for a natural burial service.

"From what we can determine, this may be the first diocesan cemetery in New Jersey, and one of the first in the country, to set aside an entire area devoted to natural burials," Prout told the Catholic Advocate, archdiocesan newspaper of Newark.

Prout, who is a national speaker on natural burials practices, which includes the use of biodegradable caskets, credits Schafer and the Newark Archdiocese for allocating green burial space as part of the cemetery's renovation plans.

The site at Maryrest Cemetery will be finished before summer with landscaping that includes native shrubs, grasses and wildflowers. In keeping with green burial practices, there will be no concrete vaults or manufactured headstones. The cemetery will accept the deceased wrapped in a shroud or a sustainable, biodegradable casket. If embalming is needed for ceremonial purposes, it must be formulated with a nontoxic, formaldehyde-free solution. Graves will be marked with native stone.

Because the green funeral movement is young, the Green Burial Council in Santa Fe, N.M., has been established to help set best-practice standards and provide leadership.

The option to consider a natural burial and green funeral is a consumer-driven choice, Prout explained. "Many baby boomers have lived their lives in an environmentally-friendly manner and would like to continue that idea in their burial practices as well."

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