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    West Laurel Hill: 1st Cemetery in Country to Get Green Certification

    Bala Cynwyd’s West Laurel Hill Cemetery just won gold for going green. It announced on Monday that its sustainable burial site, lovingly dubbed Nature’s Sanctuary, was granted Gold status under the SITES certification program. It’s the first cemetery in the country to receive such an honor.

    SITES, an initiative under Green Business Certification Inc., encourages and guides the development of sustainable landscapes.

    West Laurel Hill SITES Gold

    Nature’s Sanctuary was founded in 2008. That same year, it became the first burial ground in the Philadelphia area to become certified by the Green Burial Council.

    Board member Cliff David was one of the leading advocates for a sustainable cemetery. As he explained, he wanted West Laurel Hill to have 3 keys to impact success: sustainability, financial and community involvement.

    The mission of Nature’s Sanctuary is two-fold: it offers a green internment option for the community, while also restoring the landscape to a thriving ecosystem. The space is in the process of assisted ecological succession; it began as a meadow, with native grasses and wildflowers. It will then advance to a successional forest, and eventually into a fully-formed woodland. During this growth, natural maintenance is key: instead of fuel-guzzling lawnmowers, goats graze on the grounds, in order to eliminate any invasive species in the undergrowth.

    There are also native trees and shrubs around the site, as well as three apiaries, provided by Philadelphia-area beekeeper The Benevolent Bee.

    West Laurel Hill Beehive

    Remembrance is still vital to Nature’s Sanctuary. Family members were active in planting the meadow, and they’re able to walk along a pathway through the site while thinking of their loved ones. A stone wall-like monument borders the site, engraved with the names of those resting on the grounds.

    “We are extremely honored to receive this SITES certification, as it means that we have met the high standards that align design and development with healthy ecosystems,” said Nancy Goldenberg, president and CEO of West Laurel Hill Cemetery & Funeral Home. “We work hard to ensure sustainable practices throughout our entire organization, and this award is certainly a badge of pride that recognizes our commitment and sets us apart from our peers.”

    If a cemetery can go green, anything can. As Dave Witek, Senior Vice President, finance, operations and administration at USGBC said, “The planet has finite resources. No matter what project you have, there is always a sustainable path for it.”

    Want to learn more about how to plan a greener passage? Read all about it here.


    Nature's Sanctuary SITES Gold Certified

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    Brianna Baker

    About Brianna Baker

    Brianna is a senior journalism major Temple University. While studying abroad in Fall 2017, she interned at WHERE Rome magazine, and has also worked for Baltimore STYLE, QWERTY Philly, and student publications like Templar, The Temple News and 14th Street. In addition to writing, she loves re-watching her favorite sitcoms, going to concerts, and doing yoga (when she’s not feeling too lazy).

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