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No ‘Kid’ding: How Goats Green the West Laurel Hill Cemetery

Philadelphia, including West Laurel Hill, is covered with invasive species of plants and trees like knotweed, hops, thistle, stilt grass, and poison ivy. One cemetery needs to remove all invasive species before introducing new ones.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.42.34 PM
Devil’s Walking Stick, an invasive plant species

The best way to remove these invasive species of plants? Use “environmentally friendly vegetation control”.

AKA Goats.

The Cemetery Goat Tour

On Tuesday morning, I witnessed the first stage of West Laurel Hill Cemetery’s green restoration and reforestation project at Nature’s Sanctuary, the green burial section of the Cemetery (bordering the Cynwyd Heritage Trail).

Adam Supplee, a landscape architect with KMS Design Group, leads the project by transforming the cemetery’s natural meadow landscape into a native woodland forest. But before Supplee’s project can get underway, they’re using nature’s garbage cans (i.e. goats) to clear the weeds.

LEFT: Brian Knox, RIGHT: Adam Supplee
LEFT: Brian Knox, RIGHT: Adam Supplee

Eco-Goats: Superheroes Vs. the Invasive Species

Goats can navigate steep hills and dense foliage while eating everything in their path, completely stripping the area down to its original building blocks.

Eco-Goat LogoWest Laurel Hill Cemetery hired Brian Knox, a goat herder and professional forester, and his Eco-Goats to do the job. Eco-Goats are used in the problem areas where machines can’t travel and herbicides prove to be dangerous.

Deborah Cassidy (Director of Sales, Marketing, and Family Services at West Laurel Hill) explains, “In keeping with eco-friendly practices, we chose our furry friends to eliminate invasives, which can cause the natural site to be unsustainable.”

Luckily, I witnessed approximately 40 goats mow their way across the hillside. I was in a heavenly petting zoo, sans petting.

Laurel Hill Cemetery Curious goats
curious goat of Laurel Hill cemetery

The goats started their buffet on June 9th and will continue throughout the week. West Laurel Hill invites the public to stop by and meet the goats.

I recommend going but if you can’t, don’t worry. The goats will be back in the fall for round two.

Combat invasives with an invasion of your own.

A goat invasion!

Brian and his Eco-Goats travel mostly in Maryland but also visit sites in Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Almost anyone with an acre or more can hire the Eco-Goats to restore their property.

After this first stage of green restoration, the cemetery will allow “green burials” to continue.

So what are green burials?

Green burials do not prevent decomposition like modern caskets, but instead allow the decease’s body to “recycle” naturally back into the earth, a la dust to dust.

Characteristics of green burials include:

  • Hand-dug graves
  • A biodegradable or environmentally coffin/urn
  • Bodies that are not embalmed
  • No vaults
  • Natural grave markers

Green burials offer low environmental impact and restore the land. Without the green burials, West Laurel Hill’s restoration project would not be possible. After a plot is used, the cemetery will plant native wildflowers and trees in the area.

Interested in a greener burial? West Laurel Hill works in conjunction with the nonprofit Green Burial Council to provide meaningful, sustainable, eco-friendly funeral arrangements.

Have you heard about the Eco-Goats or given any thought to ‘greening your death’? Let us know in the comments.

And we leave you with more goats, for your viewing pleasure:

Another Curious Goat
Another Curious Goat

 

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Photos: Grace Rieck

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Originally from Rochester, New York, Grace studies Communications at Saint Joseph’s University. Green from birth, she grew up wearing reusable cloth diapers and eating co-op vegetables. She's always been conscious of humanity’s impact on the environment. She hopes to eventually form a career as a way to advocate her ethical & sustainability principles. View all posts by Grace Rieck

1 thought on “No ‘Kid’ding: How Goats Green the West Laurel Hill Cemetery

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