NORTHFIELD — Funerals can be done without using dangerous embalming fluids and other harmful products, and two local funeral homes have stepped up to offer environmentally friendly burials and cremations.
Jeffries & Keates Life Celebration Funeral Home in Northfield, and Keates-Plum Life Celebration Funeral Home in Brigantine, have recently been certified by the Green Burial Council to perform funerals that meet high standards for protecting funeral workers and the environment.
The homes will hold a workshop May 31 at the Northfield location for people who want to know more about the option.
They are the first funeral homes in Atlantic or Cape May counties to get certified, said Funeral Director Andrew B. Hoffman, who spearheaded the effort.
The funeral homes are working closely with Steelmantown Cemetery of Woodbine, the only cemetery in New Jersey certified by the national Green Burial Council, said Hoffman.
Certified cemeteries must not use vaults and must work to conserve land.
Green burials either use no embalming solution, or use a plant-based solution called ecobalming that is nontoxic, Hoffman said. Burial materials used, such as shrouds, are biodegradable.
He said there is a product available that has similar results to traditional embalming fluid, but is made from plant oils.
Its main ingredient comes from the vanilla plant, Hoffman said, and is not harmful to the health of funeral technicians or to the environment.
Traditional embalming methods use a form of formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen, he said.
Steelmanville Cemetery only does green burials, while three other area cemeteries do both green and traditional burials, according to Hoffman.
“At Steelmanville they don’t use a backhoe, but dig the graves by hand,” Hoffman said. “We are not allowed to bring the hearse in.”
Instead, a handcart transports the body to the grave in a biodegradeable casket made of pine, bamboo, sea grass or wicker, he said.
The seminar will be 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, at the Jeffries & Keates Funeral Home, 228 Infield Ave. (at corner of Tilton Road) in Northfield. To register, call 609-646-3400.