Why I Bought Lots at Penn Forest Natural Burial Park

My name is Georgette Griglia. I would like to tell you why I decided to go green at Penn Forest Cemetery. I believe when we leave this physical body in death, we go to the spirit side of life. Our bodies will go back to the earth in a natural way. Over the years attending many traditional funerals, I did not like anything about those funerals. They were always very stressful for the families and, with buying a casket and cement vault, and such a long process, you wonder what it is all for.

Pre-planning greatly eases your family’s burden of making decisions and the difference in price is unreal – a traditional funeral is about $7500.00; and that is just the funeral and not the plot. And the opening of the grave, the closing of the grave, the cement vault and the tombstone, are all extra, and some places they make you pay for the maintenance of the place too. I feel the funeral homes are making a good living from people that think they have no other recourse, but it is nice to know we all have a choice, and we do not have to do what our grandparents did.

I know I feel at peace knowing I will be surrounded with pretty grass flowers and trees and among birds and animals in a natural setting—just what I wanted.

Georgette Griglia

Hookstown, PA

Buy – Don’t Be Sold

Everyone likes to buy, but no one likes to be sold

I love to shop for what I want—to compare prices and product features, go online and look at all the independent reviews and see what best meets my needs. Then I can contact stores or websites and comparison shop and get the best deal.

But shopping for cemetery lots seems to defy that strategy. I tried doing a Google search on “cemetery reviews.” What I got was recommendations on which cemeteries were worth visiting for their scenic views and famous people buried there and business reviews of their sales figures and profits and losses. The closest I got to customer reviews were testimonials some cemeteries publish on their websites, where their customers rave about the good service they got, the friendly staff or the beautiful grounds. But can you imagine a cemetery (or any business for that matter) publishing all the complaint letters they’ve received alongside the testimonials? Neither can I.

As far as I can tell, there are no independent ratings or review websites for cemeteries or funeral homes. What’s a shopper to do to find the best cemetery for her or him?

Well, for one thing, it is important when comparing cemetery prices to consider everything that is included in burial costs. For example, some cemeteries connected with funeral homes offer low cemetery lot pricing, since they know they’ll make up the difference with high funeral home service fees later. Others that do not adequately fund perpetual care of their property may offer very low pricing, but it is doubtful that the property will be maintained for the long term.

In addition, most cemeteries require that your survivors purchase a burial vault (outer burial container) at the time of your death. These can cost between $500 to $1500, or more but are not required for green burial at Penn Forest. Usually, when burial vault costs are included in the total, Penn Forest lot pricing is equal to or lower than total costs at conventional cemeteries.

Another factor is that buying cemetery lots is usually a once-in-a-lifetime event. And it’s something that can be put off almost indefinitely.

So how do conventional cemeteries find and sell to their customers. Many use telemarketers, junk mail and email solicitations and advertising blasts. Some use commissioned sales people, whose job it is to “overcome your objections” one by one and whose mission is to get make sure you don’t leave their property without buying. That’s not how I want to buy or sell at Penn Forest.

Our approach at Penn Forest Natural Burial Park is different. First of all, our customers are different. Most of our buyers are interested in green burial, not harming the environment and restoring the forests. That is a special interest other cemeteries cannot fulfill.

Our sales philosophy is to let our customers make up their own minds; no matter how long it takes, and then tell us when they’re ready to buy. I have had people make five visits to Penn Forest before they bought their lots.

We have no sales people. Rather than advertising, we spend our limited marketing dollars educating people on why green burial might be a choice they might want to consider.

So, for that reason, I do a lot of work building up our email list. It’s an opt-in email list, so everyone on it has asked to be on it, which makes it even trickier to build. For that reason, I need your help in referring people you know to the list. So we don’t do telemarketing. We don’t send you sales emails.

In fact, we don’t solicit at all. But, in order for this low-key approach to work, we need a really big email list, so that at any given time, some people on our list will be ready to buy lots.The way we go about selling is to build up our email list, send out infrequent educational newsletters and other blurbs to make sure people don’t forget about us when they’re ready to shop for cemetery lots. And when they’re ready to buy, they contact us.

If you’re not yet on the list, click here: Join My Mailing List and make sure you add my email address (pete@pennforestcemetery.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.

Thanks for your help!


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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?



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.



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