By Last Updated: November 8th, 2023

Biodegradable Urns and Eco-Friendly Cremation

With climate change on the brain for more and more people, many might consider how their final resting place could impact the environment. Traditional burial is more environmentally harmful, what with putting non biodegradable boxes and metal caskets in the ground, but for those thinking about cremation in California, there are more sustainable options when it comes to what affects the environment. Whether for yourself or a loved one, here’s what you need to know about environmental benefits as well as the consequences of some funeral services.

Bio Urns, or Biodegradable Urns

Traditionally, the word “urn” conjures up ideas of metallic, sleek containers made of metal. However, one way for people to consider the environment with urns is utilizing biodegradable ones. Yes, biodegradable urns, or biodegradable cremation urns, are constructed from environmentally-friendly materials that easily break down and don’t take years to decompose. Materials that make up biodegradable urns for ashes include:

  • Recycled paper
  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Rock salt
  • Bamboo
  • And, yes, even cornstarch

large redwood trees in Sequoia National Forest

Put Your Loved One’s Ashes into a Tree

For green thumbs, this might sound impossible. Can your loved one’s cremains cause a tree to grow? Well, in all honesty, no, since human cremains actually yield high ph levels. However, many companies have developed ways to plant a tree with cremation ashes, effectively turning ashes into a tree. Interestingly enough, most times this process takes place with a bio urn product (see above), but there are also options for the neutralizing agent to be purchased separately from the urn.

Ways to customize the experience include choosing a favorite type of tree of the loved one, planting a weather appropriate tree according to the region they lived in, or complementing the description of a tree or flower with the description of a loved one.

Jay Junker, who planted his father as a white oak sapling, told Wired in 2017: “To me, this just seems like the best way to keep in touch. The best way to keep someone in your life.” The article ends with Jay imagining a whole forest of his ancestors, where they can live amongst each other and add greenery to the earth. Quite a beautiful idea!

While it’s true that there is a carbon footprint with cremation, even if it is much more environmentally friendly that the traditional burial process, planting a tree with a loved one’s remains is a way to offset the environmental impact of cremation.

Plant a Tree Dedicated to Your Loved One

While planting a tree with your loved one’s remains can be costly (upwards of $200), a cheaper option is to plant a tree in their name. Also, planting a tree in their name afford more customization options, where you have more varieties of plants to choose from as well as locations. You could plant a tree in a tree cemetery, a green cemetery, or even in your backyard or with the right permission, a special spot that the loved one enjoyed going to. You could also Plant a Redwood, some of the largest and tallest trees in the world, and honor a loved one with their name attributed to the tree.

small redwood tree sapling in large forest near San Bernadino

“To me, this just seems like the best way to keep in touch. The best way to keep someone in your life.”

You could also create a memorial near the tree with their name on it or scatter the ashes near the tree. It’s important to note, should you go this route and plant a tree in California in a loved one’s name, you will want to use a neutralizing agent in the ashes when scattering them so the tree will continue to grow. The last thing you’d want to do is have a dead tree to commemorate your loved one after all.

Obviously processing the death of a loved one offers a challenging experience for family and friends and grief has no time limit. However, the idea of a loved one nurturing the earth and moving its leaves within the breezes is a comforting thought, the idea of looking outside and being able to smile at your family member. There are numerous ways to make the death of a loved one an environmentally impactful one, in addition to one that has impacted you and your family’s hearts.

Share This Article