What Is Green Burial?
To understand Conservation Burial, it is necessary to start with Green Burial since it is the foundation of conservation burial. Green burial is a simple and natural way of doing burial that avoids the use of toxic chemicals and materials (such as embalming fluid), and instead of using caskets and urns found in most funeral homes, uses biodegradable burial containers made with materials that are renewable, sustainable, and non-toxic. As the “green” suggests, green burial is an environmentally friendly way of burial that takes place in a natural setting and pays special attention to the care of the land, returning the body back to the earth in a safe way. In addition to being simple, natural, and beautiful – green burial is a fraction of the cost compared to the average cost of a conventional burial.
Green Burial Basics
- No embalming fluid.
- Caskets, shrouds and cremation urns must be biodegradable and avoid the use of metal or toxic chemicals, and attempt to source materials locally when possible. Blog on biodegradable burial containers.
- Graves are dug 3 feet deep instead of 6 feet which allows for the nutrients in the body to actually benefit what is planted above. North Carolina law requires 18” of earth covering the body.
- Natural markers for headstones, such as stones/rocks, that are lied flat on the ground. This helps preserve the natural appearance of the burial ground.
- No burial vaults or grave liners, which are usually made from concrete and/or metal.
- Family-centered approach to burial, where friends and family are invited to participate in the burial process.
By embracing green burial standards, Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is able to provide an accessible, economical, and environmentally responsible alternative to contemporary cemeteries at a cost of one-half to one-third of traditional burial. Learn more at Green Burial Council, the organization responsible for green burial certification and oversight.
What is Conservation Burial?
In addition to adhering to eco-friendly green burial practices, conservation burial has the added benefit of conserving and renewing the land. To qualify as a conservation burial ground, legal protection of the land is put in place through a conservation easement, which protects the land from development. In addition, a restoration plan is followed in order to restore the natural habitat. Invasive species are removed, which helps existing native species flourish and often additional native plants are introduced. The ecology of the land is tended to, which benefits the plants, insects, birds, and other animals living on the land. The result is a beautiful park that is protected in perpetuity.
Conservation burial adheres to strict guidelines as set forth by the leaders in this movement, Dr. Billy and Kimberley Campbell of Memorial Ecosystems. The Campbells’ pioneered conservation burial in the United States with the creation of Ramsey Creek Memorial Preserve in Westminster, South Carolina.
Conservation Burial Basics
- Adherence to green burial practices.
- Land is protected in a conservation easement.
- Low impact vehicles, such as electric golf carts, are used.
- Lower burial density compared to contemporary burial.
- Graves are hand dug, no heavy equipment to impact plants or roll over graves. As earth is removed when digging graves, it is removed in layers and replaced in reverse order, thus allowing for the earth to re-establish more quickly.
- Trees, plants, and flowers on the graves and are native to the area and their particular habitat.
A unique aspect of conservation burial grounds is the relationship that they have with land trusts. In our case, we have a great working relationship with Conserving Carolina, whose mission is to “protect wonderful places for nature and people” with over 47,000 acres in their care. Land trusts support the conservation work that takes place at conservation burial grounds.
To date, Conserving Carolina has provided volunteers to help with restoration work, provided expert advice, helped us acquire $142k in grant funds, and has been a reliable ally helping us meet our conservation goals. Prior to purchasing the land for Carolina Memorial Sanctuary (CMS), we worked with Conserving Carolina (what was Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) to create a conservation easement that would be a binding agreement between Carolina Memorial Sanctuary and Unity of the Blue Ridge (seller). We obtained a second conservation easement between CMS and Conserving Carolina before our wetland and creek restoration began. Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is legally bound by the strict guidelines within this Easement, which is monitored annually by Conserving Carolina. We donate 1% of every sale to support their efforts. We greatly appreciate the assistance of Conserving Carolina and encourage you to check them out and learn more about their mission and projects.
Beautiful and economical – conservation and green burial supports those who are environmentally conscious in life with the opportunity to uphold their values in death; ensuring that future generations will have access to the same. Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is certified as a Conservation Burial Ground by the Green Burial Council; the highest standard of green burial certification.
Note: Known as “hybrid cemeteries”, there are conventional cemeteries that have green sections, which don’t tend to adhere to all of the tenants listed above. For the full benefits of green burial practices, seek a Green Burial Council certified natural or conservation burial ground.