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WRCR Exec. On A Mission To Promote Green Cemeteries

Kerry Potter
Kerry Potter Photo Credit: Kerry Potter

POMONA, N.Y. -- You meet Kerry Potter and in your mind’s eye you see a cheerleader shaking pom poms.

Aside from her wholesome good looks, the director of Business Development at WRCR for the past six years, oozes energy. Potter is in charge of new advertisers and programming. She also has a talk show on Fridays at noon, “Lunchtime Talk with Jeff and Kerry.”

But Potter, who is full of life and energy, is using her station in life, so to speak, to promote an issue that is hard to talk about: death. More specifically, green cemeteries, which, like any back-to-earth movement, is all about stripping away layers of chemicals and fuss and non-biodegradable materials, and returning to a time and tradition when the process was more natural.

"I’ve been educating people on the option of green burials for several years and many people have come to realize it makes sense,” said Potter.

The goal of green burials is to return one’s remains to the earth, as simply as possible, without embalming, and its toxic chemicals, metal caskets and burial vaults that are standard features of modern funerals.

Instead, in a green burial, the deceased is wrapped in cloth shrouds or in coffins made from cardboard or softwoods, like pine. Bodies are laid into vault-free graves, usually in woodland settings in “natural cemeteries” that are springing up nationally. When headstones are used, and they are not always, they tend to be fashioned from native fieldstones and set flush to the ground.

Potter says her goal is to bring a green cemetery to Rockland County.

The Suffern native who lives in Montebello, says Mary Rest Cemetery in New Jersey and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery have begun to devote portions of their sites to green burials.

“We have large tracts of land here in the county, and it makes sense to incorporate green cemeteries into our park system,” said Potter.

Prior to the mid-19th century, burials were a natural affair, and were standard practice. The ideas was to allow the body to rejoin the earth. The embalming of President Abraham Lincoln popularized the process. Today environmentalists are trying to re-educate people about the impact of burials, saying graves are essentially landfills for toxic materials. Additionally, the gallons of pesticide and weed killers used to keep grounds green adds another layer of toxicity.

“Death is not a popular topic but the way we handle burials is not really sustainable,” said Potter. “I realize this is a difficult topic but the more educated we are, the more we realize we have a variety of choices, the better chance there is that we’ll make smarter decisions.”

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