Catholic Cemeteries Offering Eco-Friendly Option

February 15th, 2011

Catholic Cemeteries Offering Eco-Friendly Option

Green Burials Emerge as Growing Trend

By: Andrew P. Schafer, Executive Director, Catholic Cemeteries, Archdiocese of Newark


The term ‘Going Green’ has gained national attention over the past several years as natural, eco-friendly alternatives to everyday living have become more and more popular. Most people tend to believe that going green and protecting the environment apply only to those who are living; however, many are exploring the idea of going green in their final act: death. For those who want to leave the earth exactly as they found it, Catholic cemeteries across the nation have provided them with an eco-friendly option known as green burials.


Eliminating headstones, utilizing biodegradable caskets and replacing embalming fluid with organic, non-formaldehyde- based liquids are just some of reasons why the environmentally conscious have gravitated toward green burials.  One noteworthy example of green burials can be found in Maryrest Cemetery in Bergen County, NJ. When the green burial section of Maryrest opened in the Fall of 2010, it became the first cemetery of any kind in the New York Metropolitan area and the first Catholic cemetery in New Jersey to provide green burials.


To cater to the wide-range of environmentally conscious people, Catholic cemeteries across the country offer different levels of “green” – ranging in degree of most eco-friendly to somewhat eco-friendly, each level providing various burial options to accommodate the desires of families:

Dark Green: Burial in a shroud, no casket, no embalming, no concrete vault, no headstone.    

Middle Green: Burial in a biodegradable casket made from sustainably grown material, such as bamboo or simple pine; no embalming; no concrete vault around casket; deceased’s name engraved on one of the boulders at the site.    

Light Green: Similar to "Middle Green," but embalming is allowed using organic, non-formaldehyde-based embalming liquids.


"The green burial movement is a new twist on something which had been done here since the early days of the country — wrapping people in a simple shroud and burying them in the ground," said Robert Prout of Prout Funeral Home in Verona. "This is just bringing us back to our roots."


For additional information about green burials, please visit