How West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd is Adapting to America’s Changing Idea of Death

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A green cemetery meadow at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.
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West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.

With a lot of families moving away from traditional burials, West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd is finding ways to satisfy the changing needs of the community, writes Karen Heller for The Washington Post.

The cemetery is attracting families that are interested in green alternatives by promoting them as a return to earlier practices. So far, 258 people have pre-purchased spots on the natural burial site, which was at one time West Laurel Hill’s landfill site. A hundred years from now, that burial ground will be transformed into a forest.

To emphasize its environment-friendliness, graves are hand-dug with shovels instead of a gas-fueled backhoe loader.

“People want to return to the earth in a very purposeful way,” said West Laurel Hill arboretum manager Aaron Greenberg.

The cemetery also offers the state’s first alkaline hydrolysis machine for pet cremation. In the last four years, 90 pets have been turned into white powder using water.

The historic site is hosting various cultural events to secure additional funding.

“Ultimately, we’re building affinity with the community,” says Laurel Hill and West Laurel Cemeteries president Nancy Goldenberg.

Read more about West Laurel Hill in The Washington Post.

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