490 N. Paxtang Ave., Harrisburg, PA17111
(717) 564-2110

What is Green Burial?
A green burial is a simple and natural means of burial that is an alternative to the current "contemporary" funeral and cremation.  Green burial is the process by which the body of the deceased person is interred in the ground in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition and allows the body to return back to the earth naturally and without the use of toxic chemicals or products.  

The body is prepared for burial without the use of embalming fluids, such as formaldehyde, and often wrapped in a biodegradable burial shroud placed directly in the ground or within a biodegradable casket without the use of a cement or metal vault or liner.

Why is Green so important?  
Currently, the American way of burial is one of the most resource intensive industries requiring the use of our precious hard woods for caskets, mining for metal for use making caskets, cement vaults and toxic chemicals for embalming. 

Each year 22,500 cemeteries across the US bury approximately:
- 827,060 US gallons of embalming fluid
- 90,272 tons of steel caskets
- 2,700 tons of copper and bronze caskets
- 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete vaults
- 14,000 tons of steel vaults

This equates to approximately enough formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals to fill 8 Olympic-size swimming polls every year, enough metal to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge once every year, and enough concrete to build a two-lane highway across the United States of America every year.  

Paxtang Cemetery is honored to introduce The Wood’s Edge, the first Hybrid Green Burial Ground in Central Pennsylvania.  The Wood’s Edge Burial Ground at Paxtang Cemetery provides families the opportunity to place their loved one's in a place of peace and tranquility surrounded by nature, which utilizes:
- Sustainable burial methods
- 100% biodegradable material only
- Integrated pest management plan (IPM)
- Naturalistic Memorials
- Cultivation and restoration of native PA plant life

The Mission of the Wood’s Edge is to create a natural and meaningful memorial landscape that contributes to the ecological and collective health of the surrounding community.

In Our Corner of the Forest
Everything placed in the ground at The Wood’s Edge will be non toxic and biodegradable, allowing it to return naturally to the earth. In addition, each burial will contribute to the ongoing restoration of the forest. As part of these efforts, each family will be invited back to our Arbor Day Celebration where they may participate in the planting of native PA plants in memory of their loved one. Unquarried rock or natural boulders can be engraved  for memorization's. Grounds are kept like a natural  forest which means that maintenance will be minimal and will not involve fertilizers or regular mowing. In addition a management plan will be used to manage invasive plant species. 

Burial Containers 
Burial containers placed in The Wood’s edge must be 100% biodegradable and non toxic. Shrouds and certified green caskets are acceptable.  All burial shrouds must be made of natural plant or animal fibers. We offer silk and linen options. Caskets must be constructed from wood, grasses, reeds, bamboo, or natural materials. We offer wood (woods is harvested from the dead hemlocks killed by the beetles out west), bamboo and wool caskets in house.  Metal caskets, fasteners, synthetic linings, formaldehyde glues, & high VOC finishes are prohibited. Outer burial containers, such as concrete liners, metal vaults, partitions and slabs are prohibited.

Decedents must not be embalmed unless embalmed only with nontoxic products approved by the Green Burial Council. (www.greenburialcouncil.org).

Burial Density and Plot Size
Burial density in the Wood’s Edge is currently plotted is  All plots are 4.5' x 9' compare to the traditional 3'4" x 8'. The entire 40.5 square feet are not excavated during the opening of graves. Instead, the excavation is large enough to accommodate only the burial container and is located as close to the center of the grave as possible.

Cut flowers are welcomed but all packaging must be removed first.  In keeping with the natural surroundings  foam wreaths, containers, vases, trinkets and other decorations are prohibited and will be removed upon discovery. No plantings are allowed unless written approval is provided by cemetery management.

Is Cremation Green?
More and more people are using cremation as a way to address environmental concerns because it consumes less of our land, unfortunately cremation also negatively impacts our environment and consumes large amounts of resources.  Here are some largely overlooked facts:

Noxious emissions produced by cremation include:
- carbon dioxide
- hydrogen chloride
- carbon monoxide
- formaldehyde
- dioxins
- furans and 
- mercury

In the year 2016 – 1 in 2 people decided to be cremated – which is approximate 1,313,209 people. Every single human body cremated uses as much energy in the form of gas and electricity as a 500 mile car trip. In total enough natural resources were consumed to travel 656.6 Million Miles which is equivalent to 2,749 trips to the moon.  The amount of fossil fuels consumed contributed more than 1.158 Billion pounds of CO2 per year.  Cremation also contributed 10% of all mercury omitted into the air and atmosphere which comes from dental fillings during the cremation process.

 Though cremation ashes do not offer any environmental benefit to the natural surroundings,  The Wood's Edge does allow cremation ashes to be interred there for the simple reason that when family does decide to make it their loved one final resting place they are still protecting a small part of the forest. The rules and regulations as far as the type of acceptable container would however apply.
Excavation & Burial Techniques
The topsoil and aging shale that comprise the soil at Paxtang Cemetery are separated from each other during excavation of graves to ensure replacement in the appropriate order. Burial depth is approximate 4 to 4.5 feet thereby ensuring the nutrient layer is raised and where microbes and oxygen can expedite the decomposition process. The bottom of the grave is then  layered with small branches. The grave is then filled with a layer of organic stimulus such as grass cuttings, leaves, small sticks, or other compost material. This will inject the grave with oxygen and microbes that will  hasten the decomposition process. The nutrients are also easily accessible to the native plants and prevents seepage into the ground water. The natural earth is then returned in their respective order, along with a 2 to 3 foot mound of earth on top.
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Why Paxtang
Green Burial

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Nature reduces stress and helps us find meaning.
There are a plethora of studies out there revealing the psychological benefits of nature. All of the research points to the fact that the closer we are to nature, the happier we feel. In essence, nature is a powerful anti-depressant
to Read more click here

Reading Eagle Newspaper Article: Simple green burials create serene final resting spots
To read the article click here.