Staying green after death

I got a press release not long ago from Maryrest Cemetery in Mahwah, N.J., which is run by the Archdiocese of Newark.

It was promoting “green burials,” something I had not heard of before.

Apparently, there is a small but growing movement for green burials, which, as you might guess, are natural or environmentally friendly burials.

We’re talking about biodegradable caskets or even shrouds. No embalming or “natural” embalming that avoids the usual chemicals. Natural stones instead of cut headstones. Natural gardens and wildflowers instead of the traditional manicured look (and NO pesticides).

There are two people buried in the cemetery’s new green section and another 30 or so families have reserved spots.

One question that occurred to me is how Catholic families would have multi-day, open-casket wakes without traditional embalming. Organic embalming fluid, I’m told, will work for a while.

A spokesperson got back to me with this explanation: “According to the funeral director, it really depends on the circumstance of death and how long after the death the funeral takes place that will dictate if an open casket funeral is viable for someone who has chosen a green burial.”

Maryrest is undergoing a multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation.

On this side of the Hudson, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has recently set aside a green burial section called the Riverview Natural Burial Grounds.

They’re marketing the grounds now.

“For those seeking a burial in harmony with the environment, Riverview is the ‘Natural’ choice,” David Logan, president of Sleepy Hollow, says on its website.