Natural burial is the practice of burying deceased remains directly into the soil without the use of contaminating materials such as metal caskets, vaults and embalming chemicals. The use of a shallow grave promotes rapid decomposition and reenergizes the surrounding ecosystem. A conservation cemetery is created when natural burial is used as a tool by conservationists to prevent urban sprawl and environmental degradation caused by human interference. In a conservation cemetery native plants and animals are preserved and protected. With minimal man management no outside plantings or foreign materials are allowed to contaminate the cemetery. A conservation easement further protects the ecosystem forever
As we look at the landscape of today’s modern cemetery and funerary customs, a purist might ask how we came to be in this place. Today’s conventional cemeteries take us back in time and serve as a place to remember and memorialize those who no longer walk among us. Unfortunately, since the early 20th century, they have also served as landfills for concrete, plastic, steel, hardwood, endangered tropical woods, formaldehyde and many other foreign contaminants that are present in today’s manufacture of deathcare products. Before the popularity of the conventional cemetery, we buried our own loved ones. We held their funerals in the home and buried them nearby in a very natural “dust to dust” manner. The casket, if used, was generally handmade of locally harvested wood and cloth and the body was not embalmed. A grassroots resurgence of this burial method is happening across America and is already popular around the world.
Isn’t cremation the greenest funeral option? No, natural burial is the greenest form of body disposition. Cremation takes up to four hours at temperatures ranging from 1,400 – 2,100 F, or 760 – 1,150 C. With the amount of fuel used for one cremation, a driver could fuel an auto with enough energy to drive 4,800 miles/7,725 kilometers. The cremation process includes the emission of harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide as well as the contaminants carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, dioxins and furans. If pacemakers and dental mercury are consumed in the flames, cadmium and lead are also released into the air. Although cremation is generally less expensive than burial, the environmental costs have not been considered.
A natural burial ground is just that, natural. It is a place where people are buried free from contaminants in a manner that will encourage a natural renewal of the earth. Biodegradable caskets and shrouds can be used and methods are taken to ensure a minimal carbon footprint during the process. Natural burial grounds protect the earth, and in the case of a conservation burial ground, protect endangered or fragile lands to ensure a natural green space for future generations.
Currently Life By Life will facilitate a natural burial on private land or at one of the nation’s natural burial grounds. For Tennessee residents we recommend visiting our nearest conservation burial ground, Ramsey Creek Preserve, in Westminster, SC. We have established a working relationship with founders Billy and Kimberley Campbell and will coordinate burial at Ramsey Creek should a death occur prior to the establishment of a natural burial ground in the Nashville area.