Green Burial Equals Forest Restoration at Penn Forest

I have hiked and camped in many of the best forests in the eastern United States, both large and small.  To help sustain and expand them I’ve contributed to many environmental organizations, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and most recently the Maine Woods Initiative of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

But by doing so, I rarely know how my contribution is actually spent or feel that I can have much of an impact on large-scale problems or projects.  However, lately I’ve found another way to better see and understand how to preserve a forested piece of land.  That is through my local green burial cemetery.

In green burial, bodies are buried in natural settings, without toxic or non-biodegradable materials, so the plants above benefit and the wildlife can flourish.  Think about how many more trees there could be if all of the approximately 4001 cemeteries in Allegheny County were green burial cemeteries with the graves spaced among the trees instead of in place of them.  Think of the benefits from all those trees!

The Benefits of Trees

  • Trees help to settle out, trap and hold particulate pollutants (dust, ash, pollen and smoke).
  • They absorb CO2 and other dangerous gases, and in turn, replenish the atmosphere with oxygen.  By some estimates trees produce enough oxygen on each acre for 18 people every day, depending on the species, climate, temperature and health of the trees.  Enough CO2 is absorbed on each acre of trees over a year’s time to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.2   
  • The trees also protect water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.

See the YouTube video the Importance of Trees for more evidence!

When a green burial cemetery is operated properly, the costs of the gravesite purchases and services provided can be used to contribute to sustaining and restoring the forest within its boundaries.

That is what I like about the Penn Forest Natural Burial Park. It is local; it is predominantly forested; but the land needs some help to restore it to a native-like Pennsylvania forest.  I can even work there on restoration days if I want to.  But most importantly, my purchase of a gravesite is helping to preserve a forest, to make it better, and I can see that, experience it, and enjoy it.


This post was provided by Roger Westman, Restoration Committee Member