Sharing Green Burial and Penn Forest with the ‘Burgh

Starting this month, you may see and hear more about green burial at Penn Forest around Pittsburgh.  We are sharing information about the cemetery in Print, Radio and Outdoor advertising.  This advertising is being added to what we are already doing to spread the word about the cemetery – our website, e-newsletter, video, Facebook, Twitter and our group on Linked In.

The latest issue of the Caregiver – a quarterly insert in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review –  is running our below ad.

Ad in Caregiver

Travel along Allegheny River Boulevard and you will see our billboard (going up mid-March).

And lastly, we will be an underwriting sponsor of Essential Public Radio (90.5 fm).  Do you listen to any of the following shows – Allegheny Front, Car Talk, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, This American Life, Living On Earth?  If so, you’ll start hearing our message this weekend (March 17)!

Getting the word out about green burial options at Penn Forest is our goal with this campaign and we are excited to hear from folks interested in learning more.

Progress At Penn Forest

The Pins are in Place! 

Part of every cemetery’s design process is the layout and identification of graves sites. To comply with Pennsylvania law the cemetery must:

  • Precisely locate every gravesite,
  • When an interment occurs, dig the grave in that precise location, and
  • After the burial, establish a system to find that grave in perpetuity.

 

Some people think grave markers or headstones serve this purpose, but that is not usually the case. Many cemeteries do not use grave markers (flat to the ground natural stone or wood markers are optional at Penn Forest); so another system must be developed.

This starts with the landscape architect’s interpretation of the topography and other features of the landscape. From there, burial sections are mapped out. In the phase 1 burial area at Penn Forest (about a 3-acre tract) our architects laid out four sections: Woods A, Woods B, Woods C and Meadow, with select cremation sites within those sections.

(pictured above left to right:  Wooded Burial Area A and Wooded Burial Area B)

After the sections were mapped, gravesites were created on paper and a numbering system for them was established. Then a surveyor put wooden stakes in the ground to exactly mark key locations on the grave layout grid.

The entire area is laid out with gravesites, but about half of the area is designated for reforestation, and burials will not take place there for perhaps fifty years or so until after new trees have grown up. In other non-reforestation areas where we are selling lots, there are existing trees, and we cannot sell lots under or near those trees, so that further reduces our inventory of lots available for sale. Of course, eventually all trees will die and need to be removed, and then those gravesites, which are already mapped, will become available for sale (we are currently working to add an interactive “Available Lots” map feature on our website, where website visitors can pick out sites they want to buy and put 7-day holds on them. This will include a satellite-mapping feature with the capability to zoom in on any available gravesite).

The surveyor’s wood stakes are only temporary, so on November 29th and 30th Pete and I replaced them with numbered cast aluminum lot pins in the Meadow, the A, B, and C woods sections and in the selected cremation areas. I have to say that we really picked swell weather for this activity. These were the only days in that week that it snowed, we had gale force winds, and it rained in buckets. But wearing bright yellow rain suits and armed with string lines, spikes, tape measures, spades, hot coffee, peanut butter crackers and determined hearts (and some vague remembrances of our 10th grade geometry) we persevered. In those two days we placed over 100 lot pins in the ground. With these pins in place we will be able to either show an individual the precise location of the lot they will be buying, locate the exact place in which an interment needs to be made or find a loved-one’s grave.

Before these pins were placed, we had to have a surveyor come to locate individual gravesites. However, with the pins in the ground, we can now precisely mark each grave to within an inch or so, using only a string line and tape measure. And if something should happen to any of the pins In the future, everything is backed up on our master plan maps.

Here is what we do now to open a grave:

  • A cemetery worker finds the location on the master section map and determines the distances between the four pins needed to locate the site on the ground. (Penn Forest’s basic grid is 16’ x 32’ which includes 16 individual 4’ x 8’ gravesites.)
  • Then this information is taken onto the grounds, and using the required four lot pins, the worker measures the precise distance between these pins—two horizontal and two vertical—to find the selected site and puts four wood stakes in the ground to mark the corners of the gravesite.
  • Then a second cemetery worker independently double-checks the work of the first worker, so that when the excavator operator is ready to dig, there can be no mistake about where the grave boundaries are.

When you visit the cemetery during the winter months, you will also notice some taller stakes in the ground with pink flags on them. These ‘winter stakes’ are placed at select lot pin locations so they can easily be found in snowy weather and from those pins graves can be located.

This precise process means our lot owners and their families can be sure Penn Forest will meet the goals we set in the first paragraph of this post and comply with the requirements of Pennsylvania cemetery law. They can feel confident that their or their loved one’s remains will be buried in the site they selected, and that Penn Forest will always be able to locate that grave in the future.

We are happy to have reached this milestone and look forward to showing you around the cemetery soon!

 

This post provided by Jeff Hodes of Cemetery Management Solutions, LLC.

 

Funeral Directors Embrace Green Burial

Why some funeral directors are starting to embrace green burial

Today, the Cremation Association of North America announced that they are projecting that in 2010 more than 40% of deaths in North America will result in cremation. That’s up from 38% in 2008. In our area (Middle Atlantic) the percentage will be 36% in 2010, which is up from 34% in 2009. For families that represents a big savings over conventional cemetery burial. But for funeral homes it represents a big loss in income.

Primarily for this reason, many funeral homes are failing financially. Others are just getting by with their funeral directors foregoing maintenance and repairs of their facilities and taking on second jobs to pay their bills.

However, there is now a group of funeral directors who see green burial as a niche opportunity that they can go after to keep their businesses in the black and provide a needed new service to families. Actually, at least in our area, they see three niches:

  • First, recent surveys of green cemeteries have revealed that about 80% of families who chose green burial for a family member were originally going to opt for cremation, but they changed their minds when they learned about green burial—a more environment-friendly choice. Because of this, green oriented funeral homes are now making sure their cremation families are aware of green burial as an option. Often they weren’t aware of this choice, and decide it’s what they want for their loved one, even if it costs a bit more than cremation.
  • Second, because there are only a few green cemeteries, some people who want a green burial must find a cemetery a considerable distance from their homes. Penn Forest Natural Burial Park, for example, located in Pittsburgh, serves nearly all of Pennsylvania and is the closest green cemetery for large parts of Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Delaware. Hence, we will be having many burials that would not normally come to our area. Nearly all of those families will need a local Pittsburgh funeral home, and that is business that they would not get if Penn Forest wasn’t here and they weren’t certified by the Green Burial Council.
  • Finally, many families who elect green burial also want a home funeral. For this reason, several local funeral homes have decided to help families with this option too. Again, that’s business they wouldn’t get without green burial.

So we are finding that a small group of visionary funeral directors in our area have figured out that green burial can be a source of new business and not a threat to their existing business, and they have been eager to form relationships with us. So, we have compiled a list of these area funeral homes and we make it available to all our customers.

So I ask you, are these funeral directors on to something? Is green burial the wave of the future for the funeral home business?

Pete

 

If you’re not yet on our email list, click here: Join My Mailing List and make sure you add my email address (pete@penforestcemetery.com) to your address book, so our emails don’t go to your junk mail folder. If you are on the list, please forward our newsletters and emails to everyone you know and ask them to join too.

 

 

[retweet] [stumble]