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What is green or natural burial?

According to the Green Burial Council, green or natural burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that furthers such legitimate ecological aims as the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat.

How does green burial differ from conservation burial?

Conservation burial is a term coined by the Green Burial Council at the 2005 Land Trust Alliance National Rally. The concept calls for a cemetery’s adherence to a number of protocols to ensure that burials never degrade an ecosystem and, where possible, facilitate ecological restoration. It requires that surveys (biological, geological, hydrological) be done to determine where burial should and should not take place on a piece of land, and at what density. Most significantly, conservation burial requires that an established, independent conservation organization, most often a land trust, serve as steward of this land and be willing to hold a conservation easement. This legally enforceable instrument, which runs with the land, guarantees that the standards for conservation burial, set forth by the Green Burial Council, will be upheld in perpetuity.

What are the benefits of a conservation cemetery over a conventional cemetery?

A conservation cemetery does not displace pollutants into the environment. No metal caskets, concrete or metal vaults, fertilizer, formaldehyde, plastics, foreign matter, or mined stone are introduced into the landscape. A conservation cemetery uses a conservation easement to forever protect the sacred land from development. Naturally native plants and animals flourish in its sanctuary. Visitors feel a connection to the earth and to their loved ones that only a natural setting can provide.

How is the burial process in a conservation cemetery different from the conventional method?

All of the graves in a conservation cemetery are excavated with care taken not to disturb the natural living environment. Graves are generally 3-4 feet deep where microbial rich soil aids in the natural return of the remains to the earth. Two to three feet of local soil is placed in a mound above each grave to further assist in the decomposition process. This soil is also used as a base for revegetating the grave using local and native plants. In lieu of an upright headstone a naturally collected native stone is engraved and used to mark the resting place. Family and friends are always invited to participate in the burial process.

Will burying people without vaults and without embalming damage water quality?

The microbes and bacteria found within the dead human body die or become inert within hours or days of death. For this organic matter to reach a natural water source it would have to rapidly penetrate many feet of soil and rock. Water contamination has not occurred  in conservation cemeteries across the nation, and natural burial has actually been shown to strengthen the natural landscape.

I thought if the body was not embalmed, the burial had to be within 24 hours. Is that true?

No. You can use refrigeration or dry ice to keep the body cool and thereby wait for days to have the ceremony. Many people following natural burial methods for their loved ones have delayed the funeral process for up to a week using refrigeration and dry ice as tools to delay decomposition. There are many people who have home funerals and have vigils for days just using dry ice.

Will natural burials attract animals that could dig up the bodies?

Natural burial has occurred throughout civilization. Only at the turn of the twentieth century did society begin using embalming and later metal caskets and concrete vaults for burial purposes. Frontier cemeteries were vastly populated by wild animals and the graves were not threatened by the local wildlife. At the nation’s oldest conservation cemetery in South Carolina, native animals such as bear, wild hog, and coyotes have never disturbed the natural burial sites.

Do I have to be Christian to be buried in Larkspur Conservation’s cemetery?

No.   Larkspur Conservation’s cemetery will honor all faiths and the non-religious alike.

How can we be sure that the burial grounds will be protected from development in the future?

Larkspur Conservation’s cemetery will be protected by a  conservation easement much like a protected public park.  The establishment of a conservation easement will prohibit development forever. A percentage of funds from the sale of a grave will be placed into an endowment fund to be used to maintain the cemetery’s natural landscape, roadways, trails, and structures.

If everything placed in a conservation cemetery is biodegradable, how will you know where people are buried?

Multiple systems will be implemented to identify where a grave is located.  From GPS satellite location technology and natural markers, information will be compiled and documented both electronically and on paper in multiple forms.  A memorial stone is not required to be used but will be provided according to the family’s preference. Engraved memorial markers will be sourced from the cemetery’s native stone.  No outside memorials, plantings, or other items will be allowed within the natural setting of Larkspur Conservation Cemetery in order to maintain the site’s natural integrity.

What will my body be placed in for burial?

At Larkspur Conservation’s cemetery a body can be buried in a biodegradable casket, biodegradable shroud. or biodegradable clothing.

What if I have an artificial implant or medical prosthesis?  Will it need to be removed prior to my burial?

With the exception of battery-operated pacemakers, we will not require the removal of artificial implants because we do not believe the lasting effects of such items will damage the natural environment.

What are the environmental concerns surrounding contemporary cemeteries?

Today, more than 20,000 contemporary cemeteries in the United States bury the following each year:

·      Over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid containing the known carcinogen formaldehyde

·      Over 100,000 tons of steel, copper, and bronze

·      Over 1,600,000 tons of plastic and steel reinforced concrete vaults

·      Over 14,000 tons of steel vaults

·      Over 30 million board feet of hardwoods

The amount of energy required to produce and transport these products is immense.  The use of water for irrigation and chemical fertilizers also impacts the environment negatively.

When I die what happens next?  How will my body get to Larkspur?

When someone dies that wishes to be buried naturally the family will generally contact a funeral home to provide minimal services such as:

  • transportation to funeral home from hospital or home
  • bathing, cleansing, cold storage
  • dressing/shrouding
  • biodegradable shroud or casket
  • death certificates and social security notification
  • transportation from funeral home to Larkspur

*Some families choose to bathe, cleanse and dress the body themselves. This can be done in the home or hospital room. 

What type of language should I use in my will or estate planning materials that will make my request for a natural burial known?

We suggest using the following language: Upon my death I wish my body to be buried naturally without the use of chemical embalming, concrete, plastics and metals. I request that my body be buried at a conservation burial ground operated by Larkspur Conservation or other suitable conservation burial cemetery. It is my request that my family, power of attorney, or other person/agency tasked with the responsibility of my final disposition follows the request made herein.

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