A Greener Afterlife

A Greener Afterlife

The West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home has the greenest burial practices in the country. Now you can care for the earth even after you leave it.

Visit West Laurel Hill Cemetery on a Wednesday afternoon and you’ll find the usual memorable sights we’ve come to expect from one of the Philadelphia area’s most magnificent historic graveyards: grand mausoleums; beautiful and weird sculptures marking moments in time; tree-lined lanes winding amidst notable graves for everyone from Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis to David Garroway, the first anchor of NBC’s Today Show.

But show up at the right time and you also might find yourself face to face with…goats? Goats. Running through the grass, snacking on leaves and dandelions, doing what goats do. And they’re not there by accident, either. Led on leashes by handlers, the 10 or so goats are natural lawn mowers working at West Laurel Hill’s groundbreaking green burial site, Nature’s Sanctuary.

Stretching two-thirds of an acre, Nature’s Sanctuary abandons manicured lawns in favor of allowing wildflowers and grasses to grow over the graves. Instead of tombstones, there is a single wall overlooking the trail where the names of the people buried there are inscribed. The landscape is designed to evolve naturally, from a meadow filled with regional flowers to a forest filled with native plants. The goats keep the invasive species at bay without releasing natural gas into the atmosphere.

Replacing traditional lawn mowers with goats is just one of 50 sustainability initiatives launched at West Laurel Hill since 2016, ranging from updating light fixtures to use LED bulbs, to creating rain gardens and tree management plans, to keeping bee apiaries on the grounds to help keep the area pollinated—all part of the efforts that have made the Bala Cynwyd cemetery the most eco-conscious in the country.

You can read more on this story from the Philadelphia Citizen here: