Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery embarks on a significant ecological shift
Montréal, May 6, 2021 – Drawing inspiration from its exceptional location in the heart of Montréal and its responsibilities as a major Mount Royal institutional partner, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is undertaking the most important green shift in its history to reduce its ecological footprint and contribute to biodiversity on Mount Royal, while also respecting, enhancing and developing natural environments.
“Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal are the two major institutions that the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal has the privilege of managing. We must ensure the sustainability of these jewels of Montréal's architectural, historical, arboreal and environmental heritage,” says Jean-Charles Boily, CEO of the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal. “Reduction, recovery, recycling and reuse are at the heart of our ecological thinking, fuelled by the desire to innovate and better meet the current and future needs of our clients, visitors and community partners.
Water management – Last year, after carefully considering the environmental impacts of the development and maintenance of its 1.4 million m2 of grounds, criss-crossed by over 33 kilometres of private roads, the Cemetery stopped operating its antiquated water supply system, which wasted water due to frequent breakdowns and leaks. As a first step, 22 water tanks were installed at multiple locations on the site to meet the needs of visitors who wish to landscape or have flowers on their loved ones’ plots. Over the next few years, the Cemetery plans to recover rainwater and runoff water to meet all of its needs and those of its clients and visitors ecologically.
Collaboration with partners – The Cemetery also worked in close collaboration with Les amis de la montagne, which organized the first meeting of Mount Royal's institutional owners about the ecological management of their property from a sustainable development perspective on December 1, 2020. This meeting identified the main development issues related to biodiversity and landscape quality on Mount Royal, including landscape and ecological planning, maintenance and waste management, energy efficiency and accessibility.
Innovative projects – At this meeting, the Fabrique proposed the implementation of two new development projects: the conversion of a large grassy area (93,000 m2) into a space for native perennial plants and the creation of ecological burial areas that allow people who choose cremation to replace the installation of a monument with the planting of a tree of a quality native species.
Support from clients – Given that these two projects had drawn the interest and support of sustainable development experts from the Université de Montréal and Les amis de la montagne, the Cemetery surveyed over 4,000 clients about them in March 2021, as well as about the possibility of making visitors responsible for the recovery of their waste to considerably reduce the volume of residual materials. The families surveyed strongly supported these changes. Indeed, 88% of respondents were in favour of converting large areas of lawn into spaces sown with flowers and native perennials, 81% of respondents supported the project to develop new woodlands to place the ashes of deceased persons under new native-species trees, and 79% of respondents were in favour of visitors recovering residual materials.
Changes coming in 2021
Starting in 2021, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery will undertake a multi-year plan that will focus on an in-depth review of its development and maintenance practices to:
Continue to reduce its consumption of fuel, energy, abrasive products and water, as well as the pollution associated with its maintenance activities.
Improve its contribution to biodiversity on Mount Royal through the implementation of new initiatives that meet the needs of its clientele and the aspirations of its partners.
Respect, enhance and develop quality natural environments (flora and fauna) in a sustainable way.
Large unmowed areas – “The conversion of one of our large grass areas, which will not be used for burial for several generations, begins this year and will continue over a period of many years. These areas will no longer be mown in the summer. They will be mowed in the fall, and the grass cuttings left to nourish the soil. A scientific process will also be undertaken with Université de Montréal sustainable development experts to plant and evaluate the growth of various plant combinations in four test plots at the Cemetery. This research will allow us to choose the plant combinations (grasses and wildflowers) that will be planted in the coming years,” says Alain Dussault, Director of Operations.
Remembrance Grove – “We’ve identified ecological burial areas and will soon announce a first site dedicated to people who choose cremation (approximately 75% in 2020) and who prefer, as a commemorative gesture, the planting of a tree of a quality indigenous species over their ashes. At the entrance to the site, which will gradually become a wooded area, the names of the deceased associated with each of the trees will appear on a monument,” said Éric Choinière, Director of Sales and Customer Service.
Recovery and recycling – The Cemetery will recover the majority of trees that need to be felled, as well as all branches and leaves, and convert them into soil amendment resources to improve the quality of the soil used for various plantings.
About La Fabrique de la Paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal
The Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal is a non-profit organization whose history goes hand in hand with that of the city of MontréalMontréal. The Fabrique oversees the healthy development of the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal. Based on a vision, quality customer service, professionalism, rigour and teamwork, the Fabrique manages its activities in a rigorous manner to ensure its sustainability and meet its long-term obligations.
About Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery
Since it was established in 1854, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery has welcomed nearly one million deceased persons in a unique 343-acre site renowned as Canada’s largest cemetery. A national historic site, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is a place of peace and remembrance, as well as a jewel in Montréal's architectural, historical, arboreal and environmental heritage.
Marie-Philippe Mercier Lambert, Communications Coordinator
La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal