A 501c3 Nonprofit Organization

Larkspur in The Tennes-Sierran

Tennessee’s Conservation Option for Natural Burials

Written by John Stone for the Tennes-Sierran 

Larkspur Conservation, Inc. is a Tennessee nonprofit corporation with a mission of conserving land throughout Middle Tennessee through a revival of traditional burial practices. Larkspur anticipates establishing its first conservation burial ground on 155 acres of land located along the Highland Rim in Sumner County, Tennessee, adjacent to The Nature Conservancy’s Taylor Hollow State Natural Area. This property is one of a kind, with a mixed mesophytic forest which is home to numerous plant species, some endangered. The living memorial Larkspur Conservation is creating on this land will preserve this unique ecosystem and honor life. In addition to the preservation and restoration of the habitats acquired by conservation burial sites they also reduce burial activities that damage our natural home. Natural burial, which has been practiced throughout human history, is the practice of burying deceased remains directly into the soil without the use of contaminating materials such as metal caskets, concrete vaults and embalming chemicals. Contrary to popular belief, no law requires bodies to be embalmed nor the use of caskets or vaults. These common misconceptions are the result of rules and regulations which the funeral industry has adopted to control its profit margin. In Tennessee most conventional burials consist of an embalmed body placed in a metal casket that is buried in a concrete vault. Conversely, remains, when buried naturally, are buried in biodegradable caskets and shrouds. Currently, the average funeral costs about $13,000, with many exceeding $15,000. In the United States today, more than 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid containing toxic chemicals are buried in the earth every year, along with 100,000 tons of steel and copper and 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete vaults. The use of embalming fluids and concrete vaults that hold coffins, in addition to the fossil fuels consumed in the manufacture and transportation of these items, are creating permanent damage to Tennessee’s environment. Natural burial is the palatable alternative–and even gives those families considering cremating the remains a viable and inexpensive burial solution. Many spiritual and religious leaders believe that current funeral practices can complicate and confuse the grieving process. The once simple practice of home funeral care and natural burial quickly changed after the Civil War with the introduction of embalming. The tradition of a natural preparation of a body by family and friends gave way to a new industry. Modern funeral homes have since grown to capitalize on the grief of Americans. Often they recommend unnecessary products and services that do not fit the true needs of grieving people or the environment. Larkspur will allow for the practice of rituals that honor the mystery and power we encounter in death, provide green space for the public to enjoy and serve as a platform to protect and conserve endangered land in Middle Tennessee. Although Larkspur will be the first in Tennessee, conservation burial grounds have proven successful in several other states, where native ecosystems have been sustained and improved. Without natural burial cemeteries, our natural traditions are harder to uphold in Tennessee and are contingent upon access to private burial grounds, economic resources, and individual research. Larkspur is creating this new burial option in the state of Tennessee, benefiting the environmental community and the region in which we live. Larkspur is currently conducting a capital campaign for the funds needed to acquire the Taylor Hollow land. Once that land is acquired, revenues from the sale of burial plots will fund the preservation and maintenance of that property and, eventually, provide funds for the acquisition of additional lands to be preserved and used for the same purposes. The hope and goal is that Larkspur Conservation at Taylor Hollow will be the first of many nature preserves for burial in Tennessee.

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