Conservation Burial Guidelines and Options

Published December 4, 2020
Natural environmentally friendly burial site

People who consider a green or natural burial often speak about conservation burial as well. While a green burial allows a body to decompose naturally, a conservation burial goes a step further to commit to protecting the land where burials occur. It attempts to restore the land to its natural condition and protect it from future development.

Understanding Conservation Burial

Conservation burial is one of the ways to promote a more holistic way of dealing with the issues involved with death. The movement combines the principles of land conservation with a more natural way to burial the dead. By focusing burial practices that are mindful of the earth and its needs, this movement provides a necessary function in the community while protecting land and nature. The green burial or good death movements have brought the importance of this issue to the minds of many.

What's at Stake

Natural resources continue to become scarce. The need to protect and preserve land becomes increasingly important every year. The effects of natural disasters and global climate changes are more evident and recognized. Allowing a more natural approach to a universal issue like death and burial produces positive changes in the environment and in human behavior.

The Conservation Burial Alliance

Founders of the conservation burial movement are Billy and Kimberly Campbell. They began the Ramsey Creek Preserve in Westminster, South Carolina in 1996. Their vision and current goal is to conserve a million acres of land through conservation burial principles. The one burial property led to encouraging and promoting conservation burial and the formation of other properties. The leaders aligned themselves into the Conservation Burial Alliance.

Seeking Standards

The alliance seeks to promote conservation and to enable other groups to start future burial ground projects. They are documenting best practices based on practice and reviewed scientific research. They are creating rigorous standards. They oppose greenwashing and uphold safe cemetery operations and care for the land. Several important discoveries include:

  • There is little evidence of the contamination of groundwater from burial.
  • Burial at 3 to 4 feel instead of the common 6 feet places the body at a depth which allows greater oxygen, the development of more bacteria and the result of more efficient and effective decomposition.

Caring for Families

The Conservation Burial Alliance understands the importance of the environment can only be an outgrowth of the love and concern for families and individuals who are navigating through the difficult waters of grief and family need. The CBA promotes counseling and support for the families they serve. The commitment to caring for people strengthens the care for the environment.

Conservation Burial Grounds

There are nine burial grounds certified as Conservation Burial Grounds by the Conservation Burial Alliance. These members pursue the healing benefits of natural burial and strive to conserve natural resources:

Differences Between a Cemetery, Preserve, and Burial Ground

The name choices primarily are personal preferences of the owners and mean essentially the same thing. Burial density, which involves size, depth, distance, other ratios, and includes soil composition. The CBA recommends burial density no more than 300 per acre, and many have much lower levels than that. A traditional cemetery buries over 1,000 per acre.

How to Start the Process

Understanding the environmental and individual benefits of conservation burial and green or natural death often prompts personal choices. Where do you start if you want a more natural burial? Finding a convenient green burial cemetery is not always an easy task. Factors other than location may affect decisions. Here are some suggestions for starting points.

  • Contacting a specific cemetery is a good starting point for information.
  • The website for the Conservation Burial Alliance provides helpful material for organizing your research.
  • Express your desires for a green burial to a local funeral director. You will be given specific suggestions for locations in your area. There are several choices available in almost every state.

The Caring Result

The restoration and preservation of the natural landscape and using it as a burial ground strengthens the understanding of death, makes an environment that is protected and safe for wildlife and humans, and provides a natural and appropriate habitat to respect and honor the dead. Conservation burial provides a holistic, balanced approach to solving several of the challenges of humanity on the planet.

Conservation Burial Guidelines and Options