After Jay Junker’s father passed away from cancer in 2014, the 33-year-old took his cremated remains and planted them in a field outside the family’s farm house in Vermont. His father, who Junker recalls as outgoing and nature loving, is now a white oak sapling that’s grown from 5 inches to just over 5 feet tall in the last two years. On nice days, Junker likes to take a stroll out to the meadow where his father is planted and spend some time reminiscing about how they used to ski and hike in the rolling green hills. “To me, this just seemed like the best way to keep in touch,” Junker says. “The best way to keep someone in your life.”
Ashes by themselves don’t grow into trees, of course, but Junker had some help. He used a Bios Urn—a biodegradable urn that turns human ash remains into growth material for trees.
When Bios Urn debuted in 2013, it seemed like an outlandish idea. During cremation, the human body is stripped of all organic matter. The heat of the furnace, which can reach upwards of 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit, evaporates the blood, flesh, and bodily fluids into an exhaustible vapor. What’s left of the body is ash—or rather, a fine dust made from pulverized bone. “This ash doesn’t contain nutrients,” says Roger Moliné, who co-founded Bios Urn along with his brother Gerard. “The pH can be harmful for seeds.”
Bio Urn’s big innovation was building a biodegradable urn that could keep the ash and seeds separate during the plant’s gestation period. The cone is split into two chambers: The bottom chamber holds the ash, while the top chamber contains crushed up coconut shell and vermiculite, a mineral that helps plants retain water. When the root system grows strong enough—generally after a week—water will dissolve the top of the second chamber, allowing the roots and minerals to mix with human ash.
It’s a relatively straightforward process, but the Moliné brothers worried about ensuring the survival of a plant that’s effectively an extension of a loved one. So Bios is now introducing new product called the Bios Incube, a smart planter to track the health of fledgling trees.
The Incube works like a handful of other automated watering planter systems: The planter has a 5 gallon water tank in the bottom that automatically dispenses water for three weeks on a single charge. A small sensor sits on top of the soil to measure soil moisture, temperature, and conductivity, as well as the environment’s temperature and humidity. Moliné says he and his brother developed the Incube after talking to people about what they liked most about the Bios Urn. “We realized most people were interested in the process rather than the final result,” he says.
Trees can take decades to show their height; in the meantime, watching your loved one’s ash grow from a tiny sapling to a healthy tree is more than just symbolically satisfying. “It’s almost like an interactive grief process,” says Jill Shock, a Los Angeles-based death doula, who bought a Bios Urn to bury her family cat and dog in the plot next to her father’s grave.
Receiving a push notification reminder to water your loved one might not be right for everyone, but Shock believes the way people connect with the deceased is only going to continue to change. It’s no longer about formal funerals and visiting the cemetery, she says. Now, with technology, people can build interactive mausoleums or create chatbots to immortalize their fathers.
For Junker, the draw of the Bios Urn is less about technology. “Eventually I’d like to have a mini forest where family members can walk amongst their ancestors,” he says. “Not with gravestones and marble statues, but with birds chirping and a nice breeze rustling the leaves.”
The Capsula Mundi burial urn is finally available for purchase.
When it comes to stories about green burial options, the piece I wrote on the Capsula Mundi concept last year seemed to strike a chord with readers (other than the typical comments about how useless and ridiculous some people thought it was), but even so, the crowdfunding campaign for the project didn’t really catch on. However, regardless of the failure of the Kickstarter campaign, it hasn’t stopped the creators from following their mission of helping people plant trees, not tombstones.
© Capsula Mundi Although a body-sized Capsula Mundi pod isn’t yet ready for burying your loved ones in, designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel have brought a decidedly smaller version of the concept to life, which is now available for purchase. The product is the Capsula Mundi Urn, which is designed to accept the cremation ashes from the deceased, and to then be buried next to an existing tree, or in a hole over which a tree will be planted. The Urn is made from a biodegradable polymer (bioplastic) that will essentially be turned into soil and nutrients for the tree in “a few months to few years” depending on the local soil and climate conditions.
The Capsula Mundi Urn measures 29 cm (11.4″) tall and 22 cm (8.7″) wide, with an inner volume of some 4.5 liters, and it weighs about 1.4 kg (3 lb). Two different versions are available, a beige one coated with sand particles for a more organic look and feel, and a shiny white satin model, both of which can be ordered from the company with free shipping through September of 2017.
© Capsula Mundi
These biodegradable burial urns aren’t cheap, at €420 for the Sand version and €380 for the White version, and while you can certainly come up with a DIY version (shoe box, anyone?), these will look a heckuva lot better at a memorial service or on display at home. Learn more at Capsula Mundi.
- Bios Urn: the startup that lets you grow a tree from human ashes
- Are Cremated Ashes a Health Hazard?
- Vatican: Don’t Scatter Cremation Ashes, And Don’t Keep Them At Home
- 1. Cremation is cheaper than burial
- 2. Cremation results in ashes
- 3. You might get someone else’s remains
- 4. Cremation is eco-friendly
- 5. You can’t have a traditional funeral with cremation
- 6. Scattering ashes is illegal
- 7. You have to purchase an urn from the funeral home
- 8. Cremation is different for pets and humans
- 9. Cremation is an “alternative” disposition method
- Planting In Cremation Ashes – Are Cremation Ashes Good For Plants
- Are Cremation Ashes Good for Plants?
- Alternatives to Growing Trees and Plants in Cremation Ashes
- From the Ashes: 3 Companies That’ll Turn Cremains into a Tree
- Bios Urn and Incube
- The Living Urn
- EterniTrees Biodegradable Urn
- This New Urn Uses Cremation Ashes to Grow a Tree
Bios Urn: the startup that lets you grow a tree from human ashes
Jay Junker’s father has blossomed into a beautiful oak tree on the side of a mountain in Vermont. As oak trees go, this one is still in its infancy. But Junker has a vision of spending more time with it – and his father – as it grows. He says: “In a few years, I’ll be able to hang my hammock out there and just swing in the breeze with my dad by my side and watching over me.”
Junker buried his father in a Bios Urn, a biodegradable urn designed to grow trees from ashes. Since 2012, brothers Roger and Gerard Moliné have sold 100,000 Bios Urns to people looking to turn the ashes of loved ones or pets into trees all over the world from their head office in Barcelona, Spain.
The urn arrives in the post as a cardboard tube made of two separate cones, one for holding ashes and another containing a soil mix and the seed of choice, whether that is a maple, oak, pine or any other tree or bush. The buyer then decants the ashes into the bottom cone and buries the two parts together. That’s easy for people like Junker, who has 200 acres of family-owned land in Vermont. He dreams of one day planting all his family and pets in the same field so he can always spend time with them.
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Many people don’t have any land to return family members to after death. So the Moliné brothers have been working on a digital plant pot for the urn, which allows families to keep the plant near them and monitor its progress using an app.
The Bios Incube, advertised as “the world’s first incubator for the afterlife”, was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising €73,671 (£65,890) in March 2016. The 356 backers each get a tree planted in their honour (ashes not included). More than 50 of them contributed €350 or more to get an early bird Bios Incube at a special price (they retail from €450).
I catch Roger Moliné just as the first Incubes are about to ship. “When we launched, we didn’t have any business plan or any business analysis about where it would sell,” he says. “We were just a couple of designers who had an idea to see if you could replace a cemetery with a forest.”
Roger is younger than Gerard by 15 years. It was the elder brother who first came up with the idea for the Bios Urn. It grew from a moment in his childhood, when he was planting vegetables with his grandmother in the countryside near their family home in La Seu d’Urgell in the Catalan Pyrenees.
They found a dead bird on the ground and without thinking too much about it, his grandmother dug a small hole for the bird and buried it with a handful of seeds. The idea of planting bodies with seeds, a symbol of life, took root in Gerard Moliné’s mind. It was only when he was studying to be a product designer in 1997 that he sketched out plans for a receptacle that could bring the idea to life.
The first prototype was planted in a garden in Barcelona in 2002. But it wasn’t until the younger brother graduated in 2012 that the pair decided to go into business producing urns and selling them for €145. The family owns the patent. So while there are other urns made of clay or salt that also break down into organic matter, they are the only maker of a biodegradable urn that grows into a tree.
It turned out that the biggest market for the urn was in the US. In 2015, Roger travelled to meet some of the families who had bought the first Bios Urns in 2013. It was the first time he came face to face with the families that shared the brothers’ dream of replacing cemeteries with forests. All of them had come across the Bios Urn online and, two years on, were growing plants from the ashes of a loved one.
He met Isabelle Bolla, a young woman living in California who bought a Bios Urn after her sister passed away from stage 4 breast cancer in 2014. Bolla told the designers: “It made me feel relieved that I had found something which was so closely aligned with our own beliefs and wishes for my sister.”
She chose to grow a Pinon Pine because of its nice smell and because her sister loved the tree: “The Bios Urn is more than just an urn. It’s a catalyst for life and growth.”
The Moliné brothers are keen to distance themselves from the death industry. “We design our products for the customer not the industry,” Moliné says. “A lot of companies take advantage of people when they are dealing with the death of a loved one. A lot of products suffer from price inflation.” The lower price point for the Bios Urn has helped attract buyers who felt like it was cheap enough to try, even though they had not heard of the product or the company before.
Death is big business. In the UK alone it is worth £1.7bn every year, according to analysts IBISworld. It is growing fast. The Co-operative Group reported a 9.9 per cent rise in funeral sales in 2016 and announced plans to open a further 2000 parlours over the next three years.
It is also a conservative industry, dominated by small, family-run firms. Most people still arrange the funerals of their loved ones in person, with a funeral director. But startups are beginning to modernise the process.
There are now platforms like Willing in the US that allow people to plan what to do with their estate using a will and other legal documents online. Another online service, called Parting, helps customers compare pricing of funeral homes by location, but it has found it tricky to get funeral homes to open up to startups.
Moliné says the Bios Urn is different because it provides life after death for families once the funeral is over. They have never taken any external investment. The company now has 12 full time employees and is planning a rapid expansion if the Bios Incube takes off. It already has distributors in Northern America and channels in Europe and is looking to start selling the product in Asia.
The Molinés’ grandmother never lived to see the urn she accidentally inspired – which may be a good thing. “She was really Catholic,” Moliné says. “She wouldn’t approve of the idea of scattering ashes in the mountains, let alone using the urn!”
Thank you for this, I appreciate you time and input. The question was are ashes toxic, I would stand by the argument that they are not.
It is not the same as the cigarette butt argument. Cigarette butts are man made, they don’t break down and we create the demand.
Humans live and then they die, the ashes are the bones. If a squirrel dies in a forest I doubt that there would be many bemoaning it’s bodies impact on the soil.
Yes the salts are high and this has a negative impact on soil. I have not seen evidence that puts human ashes anywhere near a ph of 14.
Humans are a natural thing, for thousands of years their bones have reintegrated back into the land. It’s like saying volcanoes are bad for air quality, true they are but they are the environment. We are the environment.
The dilution agreement is difficult and I take the point – mercury, endocrine disruptors they all still bioaccumulate. But I don’t think concrenation the source is a valid argument the other way.
Wide dispersal over wide areas seems a sensible and pragmatic approach. And I have only ever seen extreme cases where human ashes impacts the local ecosystem so greatly that it can’t support its original flora and fauna.
Are Cremated Ashes a Health Hazard?
As cremation rises in popularity, some people wonder if the ashes are safe to keep in their homes. The truth is that they are. Once the body is cremated, all that remains are materials that are natural to the body and safe for human contact. With knowledge of the makeup of cremated ashes and how those remains are made, you can rest easy with the understanding that human ashes do not pose a health hazard to you or your family.
Are the Components in Ashes Safe?
At the end of the cremation process, all that is left of the body is almost entirely tri-calcium phosphate, the primary component of bone. There are trace amounts of minerals that are also present, depending on the person’s surroundings and their exposure to certain things over a lifetime. These minerals include sodium and potassium, which are naturally found in the human environment. Since the components of the ashes are naturally occurring and generally regarded as safe, you may maintain them in your home without worry.
How Are Cremated Remains Made?
The human body is made up of many different components, but primarily water and carbon. During the cremation process, the body is placed in a device that heats it up to a very high temperature. The water in the body evaporates and the carbon is emitted as exhaust. What is left is largely bone and small amounts of minerals. The bones are pulverized until no large pieces of bone remain, and the ashes appear a great deal like sand. Any metal pieces that are left, that may have come from tooth fillings, implants, or coffin fittings, are removed before the ashes are collected and given to the family.
Although the idea of cremation may be a new concept for you or your family, you do not need to be afraid of the consequences of storing human ashes. You may select an urn that meets your needs and put the ashes inside, secure in the knowledge that your loved one has found a safe and final resting place.
Vatican: Don’t Scatter Cremation Ashes, And Don’t Keep Them At Home
The columbarium where cremated remains are kept at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Godong/UIG via Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Godong/UIG via Getty Images
The columbarium where cremated remains are kept at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Godong/UIG via Getty Images
The Vatican has issued new guidelines recommending that the cremated remains of Catholics be buried in cemeteries, rather than scattered or kept at home.
“Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places,” state the guidelines released Tuesday by the Vatican.
The guidelines do not represent a change the church’s overall policy on burial and cremation, but rather underline “the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation” in light of the increasing popularity of cremation in many countries, according to the introduction of the document.
Cremation has been steadily growing in popularity in the United States. According to the Cremation Association of North America, an industry group for cremation-related businesses, nearly half of all people who died in 2015 in the U.S. were cremated, up from about a quarter in 2000.
The newly articulated ash norms include not storing human cremains in the home and refraining from scattering ashes “in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way … in order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided.”
The creation of jewelry and other ash-containing mementos is also explicitly prohibited by the guidelines.
Since its founding, the Roman Catholic Church as an institution has always preferred burial to cremation. For periods, cremation was outlawed entirely. However, since the Second Vatican Council, the official position of the church has been that cremation, while not preferable, is also not banned.
The new recommendations reiterate that policy, quoting the church’s canon law in stating: “The church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, ‘unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.’ “
Reasons contrary to Christian doctrine, the church says, include “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church.”
“The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul,” the guidelines continue, “nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life.”
Last Updated on October 11, 2016
Cremation myths abound. With the surging popularity of cremation as a common option for final disposition (see #9, below), the myths about cremation are slowly being dispelled. Here are some of the most common ones.
1. Cremation is cheaper than burial
If you compare average costs, this statement is true. The cost of a large plot, fancy casket, embalming, gravesite maintenance and more generally makes traditional ground burial the more expensive option. But depending on what services you select, what you choose to forego, and what you can do yourself, burial can be just as affordable or even more so than cremation.
If you can arrange to have your loved one buried on private property, such as a family farm or ranch, you can lower those costs even further.
- Tips for saving $$$ on cremation urns
- Looking for a no-cost or even free cremation?
- What is direct cremation? (A low-cost option)
- 4 things you need to know about direct burial (Another low-cost option)
- 15 ways to have a memorable funeral on the cheap
- How to have a cheap funeral
2. Cremation results in ashes
Although the term “ashes” is used often, even by those of us within the funeral and cremation industry, what is left after cremation is not ashes. The proper term is “cremated remains,” which consist of pulverized bone matter. Everything else other than the bones are incinerated during the cremation process, and the remaining skeletal material is ground down into a fine, grainy powder.
The remains themselves look something like coarse sand, with an off-white color leaning towards gray. You can see a photo of cremated remains here.
- How do the ashes come from the funeral home?
- What amount of ashes will there be after cremation?
- How does cremation work?
- Estimating cubic inches for cremated remains
- What size urn should I get?
3. You might get someone else’s remains
A common concern, and the punchline to most cremation jokes, but nonetheless a myth. Here is what the ICCFA (International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association) has written as guidelines for its members and as a model for state regulations:
The crematory authority should not simultaneously cremate more than one human remains in the same cremation chamber unless it has written authorization to do so by the authorizing agent of each human remains to be cremated.
Most funeral homes and crematoriums are members of the ICCFA, NFDA (National Funeral Director’s Association), or other local associations. These groups all have similar guidelines, which have been incorporated into various state laws and regulations that govern the funeral industry. Additionally, every funeral home and crematorium has protocols in place that ensure the identity of each body and the resulting cremated remains are never in doubt.
The kernel of truth in this myth comes from a very few instances of shady, disreputable individuals years ago who cut corners and swindle their customers. You can make sure that you avoid this rare exception by taking two simple precautions:
- Ask the funeral director or crematorium staff about how they maintain identity
- Be present for the actual cremation
It is your right to watch the cremation, and doing so helps alleviate the fear that many people have that their loved one’s ashes will be mixed up (or mixed with) another person’s remains. You may not need or want to view the cremation, so another option is to ask about how they handle the remains throughout the process. Most funeral homes and crematoriums are very transparent and wish to give you peace of mind in all aspects of their service, and they will welcome the questions and address your concerns.
4. Cremation is eco-friendly
A partial truth is concealed in this flat-out falsehood. The cremation process itself is not eco-friendly in the least.
However, there are secondary environmental benefits once you’re past the actual cremation. Since there is no body to bury, there is no land used for burial. You can easily forego the formaldehyde used in most traditional burials, and you also skip the casket, grave liner, and long-term cemetery maintenance.
Some insight on the cremation process from Kern:
Though cremation process is better for the environment since it does not use up so much space, yet the actual process of cremation cannot be considered as eco-friendly. For cremation to take place large amounts of fossil fuels are required which in turn releases several harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. These harmful chemicals include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrofluoric acid, and mercury.
One solution to this problem is to make crematoria install filters in their ventilation systems. This way there will be less impact on the environment but the carbon output is still significant. An eco-friendly alternative is bio-cremation, in which the remains are dissolved by an emission-free chemical and liquid process.
Lastly, the harm to the environment caused by the cremation process may be different than what you might think: Roughly the environmental equivalent of a 500-mile car ride. Depending on your perspective, that may be more or less harmful than you are comfortable with, and the eco-friendly benefits of cremation may or may not outweigh those of traditional burial.
- Are cremation ashes toxic?
- Eco-friendly options for cremated remains
- After Death: 8 Burial Alternatives That Are Going Mainstream
- Shop our collection of Eco-Friendly Urns
- 5 Simple Ways to Have a Green Funeral
5. You can’t have a traditional funeral with cremation
Choosing cremation doesn’t preclude a “traditional”-style funeral. You can certainly bury a cremation urn, so the only differences will be the size of the container being buried and no viewing immediately prior to the burial. You can even have an open-casket viewing and memorial service prior to the cremation; you’ll just need to wait a few days for the cremation to be complete before the burial. All other aspects of the funeral and memorial can be the same.
On a practical note, here are some cremation urns designed for burial, along with a guide on using burial vaults to bury and protect the urn.
6. Scattering ashes is illegal
No, but you should seek permission from the land owner prior to scattering. From Knoji:
Many people express the wish to have their cremains scattered at a meaningful location as a way of becoming a part of that environment. State laws about burying or scattering cremains vary, though it is usually legal to dispose of them on your own property or with permission of a property owner. The Environmental Protection Agency does stipulate that cremains should be released 3 miles away from shore. However, since cremains are not toxic, scattering someone’s ashes anywhere will not be a danger to public health. Veterans are entitled to have their cremains scattered at sea by the Navy or Coast Guard.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is common for families to scatter remains at a favorite hiking, camping, or fishing spot. The regulations for just about any publicly owned land can be summarized by “pack in, pack out.” In other words, don’t litter: don’t take anything into the forest or on the hiking trails that you don’t bring back out again.
The purpose of these type of regulations is to protect and preserve the land. Again, since cremated remains are not toxic and not harmful to the environment, most agencies will grant permission when asked. Contact your local city, state, or county offices for more information.
More resources on scattering ashes:
- DIY options and ideas for scattering ashes
- Can I remove ashes from an urn to scatter?
- How to Scatter Ashes
- Symbolism & Significance: What Does Scattering Ashes Mean?
- Shop our collection of Scattering Urns
7. You have to purchase an urn from the funeral home
No. You can purchase an urn from anywhere and bring it to the funeral home or crematorium. According to the FTC’s Funeral Rule, “the funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.”
We wrote an entire blog post on this topic, linked below plus some more resources:
- Do I have to purchase an urn from the funeral home?
- Do I have to purchase an urn from the funeral home?
- Cremation Urn FAQ
- 8 Things You Need to Know About Cremation Urns
- FTC Funeral Rule – The FTC guidelines on your rights as a funeral consumer
8. Cremation is different for pets and humans
There is little to no difference between cremation for humans and for pets. Both use the same type of equipment and similar processes, and some crematoriums work with both pets and humans.
Check with your local veterinarian, pet cemetery, or crematorium for more information about pet cremation. For human cremation, check out local listings for funeral homes and crematoriums.
9. Cremation is an “alternative” disposition method
This used to be the case, but it simply isn’t true anymore. Cremation is mainstream in many countries all over the world, averaging about 50% in most developed regions. In the USA, cremation is chosen in more than 33% of deaths, ranging from just under 10% in Mississippi to 68% in Nevada. The average across Canada is 65%, in the United Kingdom it is 73%, Australia 65%, China is at 45% and rising, India at about 85%, and Japan leads all nations with cremation rates at 99.97%. Here is the Wikipedia article on cremation rates around the world.
Since cremation is so common throughout the world, it shouldn’t be described as an “alternative” disposition method any longer. It is one of two common basic choices (burial being the other) for disposition methods.
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Planting In Cremation Ashes – Are Cremation Ashes Good For Plants
Planting in cremation ashes sounds like a wonderful way to pay tribute to a friend or family member who has passed on, but is gardening with cremation ashes really beneficial for the environment, and can plants grow in human ashes? Read on for more information about growing trees and plants in human ashes.
Are Cremation Ashes Good for Plants?
Can plants grow in human ashes? Unfortunately, the answer is no, not very well, although some plants may be more tolerant than others. Human ashes are also bad for the environment because unlike plant matter, ashes don’t decompose. There are a few other problems to consider when thinking about planting in cremation ashes:
- Cremation ashes may be harmful when placed in the soil or around trees or plants. While cremains are composed of nutrients that plants require, primarily calcium, potassium and phosphorus, human ashes also contain an extremely high amount of salt, which is toxic for most plants and can be leached into the soil.
- Additionally, cremains don’t contain other essential micronutrients such as manganese, carbon and zinc. This nutritional imbalance may actually hinder plant growth. For example, too much calcium in soil can quickly reduce the supply of nitrogen, and may also limit photosynthesis.
- And finally, cremation ashes have a very high pH level, which can be toxic to many plants because it prevents the natural release of beneficial nutrients within the soil.
Alternatives to Growing Trees and Plants in Cremation Ashes
A small amount of human ashes mixed into the soil or spread on the surface of the planting area shouldn’t harm plants or negatively affect soil pH.
Some companies sell biodegradable urns with specially prepared soil for planting in cremation ashes. These companies claim that the soil is formulated to counteract nutritional imbalances and harmful pH levels. Some even include a tree seed or seedlings.
Consider mixing human ashes into concrete for a unique garden sculpture, birdbath or paving stones.
Grow a living memory tree with the cremated remains of a loved one with The Living Urn, the patented tree burial system.
We are often asked, what is a tree urn? The answer to this common question is a tree urn is a biodegradable urn or bio urn that grows a tree in combination with ashes or cremated remains. The Living Urn is the leading tree urn and the urn itself is made from 100% biodegradable materials that are all natural. Even the packaging of our cremation tree kit is made from bamboo which is a sustainable resource and an excellent choice as an eco friendly building or packaging material. A Living Urn Tree Urn is an option for families that want ashes made into a tree or ashes planted into a tree and an excellent choice for people that want to grow a tree with ashes. The biodegradable urn serves as a special capsule that is compatible with all types of trees, shrubs and other plants and enables the proper growth of a tree or plant when planted with the remains of your loved one or planted with the ashes of your loved one.
We are also often asked the question, can you turn yourself into a tree when you die? Or, how do I turn my ashes into a tree? Today many people are looking for unique and meaningful memorial options and one option families want is an urn that will turn you into a tree after you die or an urn that will convert you into a tree. There are several products available including The Living Urn and other bio urns that have the goal of reintroducing man into the cycle of life by symbolically allowing you to become a tree when you die. Many people are curious about this option for themselves and ask, how do I turn my ashes into a tree? To turn your ashes into a tree or to plant a tree with your ashes simply pace the ashes in a tree pod such as The Living Urn, add the additives and then plant the bio urn combination with the young tree. As a result, the ashes will turn into a tree in a symbolic way. The Living Urn is a biodegradable urn that transforms into a living memorial in the form of a tree. Therefore, The Living Urn Blooming Bio Urn is a funeral urn made from biodegradable materials that will turn you into a tree after you die. Inside the urn there is a pine seed, which can be replaced by any other seed or plant, and will grow to remember your loved one. The Living Urn Bio urn turns death into a transformation and a symbolic return to life through nature. Another question we often receive is, how much does a biodegradable urn cost? The answer to this question is that bio urns range in price from approximately $40 to $165. What is a bio urn? A Bio Urn is simply a biodegradable urn. The Living Urn is a tree urn and The Living Urn is also a bio urn. But not all biourns are considered tree urns for planting cremated ashes. Now that we have cleared that up, we can answer the question more accurately and biodegradable urns can be purchased for as low as $40. These biodegradable urns are usually used to scatter ashes or bury ashes and the living urn has products like this including Eco Scattering Urn for scattering ashes, the Eco Burial Urn for burying cremation ashes and the Eco Water urn for water burials and scattering ashes in water. There are several bio urns that are also tree urns that are generally more expensive and fall into the range of about $100 to $160. The bio urns on the low end of this price spectrum only come with seeds and not living trees. There are many challenges that come with trying to grow a healthy and enduring tree with a seed and that is why they are less expensive. The Living Urn Tree Urn comes with an actual living tree that is 2 to 4 feet in height and comes in a pot with a strong, robust root system. This makes it easy for families to have success and grow a beautiful tree memorial. The Living Urn biodegradable urn cost is $129.00 to $159.00, depending on the type of tree. The Living Urn offers more than 20 beautiful tree options for all different growing regions throughout the U.S. to ensure that families are planting a tree well suited for their area. If a family chooses cremation for a loved one, they often have question, What do you do with cremated ashes? The answer to this question is that there are a number of wonderful things to do with cremated remains and families have many options, including scattering the ashes at a special or meaningful place, burying the ashes under a tree or in a special place, or simply keeping the ashes in an urn at home. An option that is growing in popularity throughout the U.S. and the world is planting the ashes in a tree urn such as the patented Living Urn. The Living Urn is a tree urn that transforms the remains of your lost loved one into a living tree memorial to honor your loved and give back to nature. Many people will plant on their own property or other special place and others may consider a biodegradable urn tree cemetery such as the Memory Forest. Once families learn about The Living Urn, they often ask, How do you plant a tree with cremated ashes? With The Living Urn one plants a tree with cremated remains by first transferring the cremated remains into the bio urn. Next, the bag of the ash agent RootProtect is emptied on top of the remains and the urn is placed in the planting hole in the ground. The young tree is then lowered into the urn and soil is filled into the space around the roots in the urn and the hole in which the urn and tree are in is filled in with soil. Next, press down the earth to ensure a stable footing for your tree or shrub. Apply a thick layer of mulch on the surface surrounding the tree and water the tree very well and on a regular basis. Your tree of life will grow up from the bio urn into a beautiful and majestic living memorial tree. The Living Urn offers a special Bio Urn for People and a different Bio Urn for pets.
From the Ashes: 3 Companies That’ll Turn Cremains into a Tree
If you or your loved ones want to be environmentally friendly, even in death, you have a few options and considerations: Green burials – the practice of “returning a person to the earth” by burying in a biodegradable casket, without embalming fluid or a concrete vault – is legal in all 50 states but saddled with rules and regulations governing how and where you can bury. Not all cemeteries allow green burials (but you can find one near you here). And when deciding between burial versus cremation, consider the issue of dwindling cemetery space: It’s estimated that between 2024 and 2042, about 76 million Americans will reach the average life expectancy of 78 years; when they pass on, they’ll require burial space roughly the size of Las Vegas.
For people who choose cremation, several companies have created biodegradable urns that, when combined with specific soil mixtures, use cremains to help grow a tree. In a way, these products hark back to a time before the creation of the “traditional” burial system – when our ancestors’ remains went straight into the ground and provided sustenance for all sorts of plant life – but in a 21st century, space-saving, environmentally-friendly manner. Here are three companies that have their own particular products to help you continue the cycle of life.
Bios Urn and Incube
Bios, a Spanish company who wants to “convert cemeteries into forests,” recently raised more than €73,000 (about $82,800) through a Kickstarter campaign for their new product, the Bios Incube. This gadget pairs with the company’s existing biodegradable urn and tree-growing kit to allow you to grow a seedling in your home, rather than find a burial spot. Incube is smart: It tracks your plant’s temperature, electrical conductivity, solar irradiance, and soil humidity; using that data, it automatically waters. Roger Moliné, the COO and co-founder, tells Modern Farmer in an email says he came up with the idea after receiving requests from a number of customers who complained of limited cemetery space or having no place to plant their biodegradable urn.
The Incube can water the tree for up to 20 days before you need to refill it, and connects to your smartphone or tablet through an app to keep you alerted to what’s happening with your seedling.
Bios will begin taking pre-orders next month on their website and expects to start shipping the Incube to their Kickstarter funders by the end of the year, with a general release tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2018. The company is also working on creating Bios Incube centers where people can have their trees incubated for them.
“We really believe it can help people who live in big cities with limited space for burials, and for those who want to take on an active role in growing something from just a seed,” says Moliné. “We decided it was okay to bring the process of death and dying up to speed with 21st-century demands and requests. We also wanted to create something that was environmentally friendly, and could encourage even those who don’t garden or aren’t used to growing plants or trees, to take on a new activity and find peace in a different practice.”
Bios Urn: $145 (choice of a five types of trees, including maple, pine, ash, gingko, and beech)
Bios Incube: Tentatively priced at $550 (includes a free Bios Urn)
The Bios Incube. Courtesy of Bios
The Living Urn
Based in Colorado, The Living Urn‘s system includes a biodegradable urn packaged in a handmade bamboo container, with a seedling, wood chips, a proprietary soil mix, and an ash-neutralizing agent that helps counteract the chemical properties of cremated remains to produce a balanced growing environment. According to co-founder Mark Brewer, the company provides seedlings – with a wide range of between 15 and 20 choices of tree types based on the customer’s growing zone – instead of seeds, which helps ensure you’ll actually be able to grow the tree, as seed germination can be tricky for amateurs.
Founded by three life-long friends, the idea for the product was initially conceived by another of the company’s partners, Brandon Patty, following the death of a friend. Patty wanted to honor his memory by planting a tree using his cremains. A few years later the three entrepreneurs, who all had an environmentalist bent, began working on the idea, with the help of arborists, soil scientists, and eco-friendly manufacturers. After about a year-and-a-half, the trio created to The Living Urn. They have also added a version for pets.
“We feel lucky to have such a great product and are excited to get the word out and have more and more families be made aware of this uplifting option that’s available to them,” says Brewer in an email.
The Living Urn: $135 (with choice of tree) or $119 without seedling
Pet version: $119 (with choice of tree) or $99 without seedling
The Living Urn. Courtesy of The Living Urn
EterniTrees Biodegradable Urn
EterniTrees, which is based in Oregon, uses a proprietary growing medium that helps release beneficial plant nutrients found in cremated ashes. (On their own, cremains aren’t actually plant friendly.) The urn holds about a cup of ashes so there’s the option of planting several trees using the cremains, scattering some of the ashes, or memorializing them in some other way. The company offers a choice of around 15 tree types based on your growing area, as well as a “Personal Choice” urn that allows you to locally source the seeds you choose to germinate.
If the seed doesn’t grow or an animal destroys the seedling, the company will send you more seeds and growing medium, or an actual seedling if seasonable available, for free.
Eternitrees Biodegradable Urn: $98 (includes choice of tree type)
Pet Version: $98 (includes choice of tree type)
The Eternitrees biodegradable urn. Courtesy of Eternitrees
Gerard and Roger Moline have a lively take on death. The brothers from Barcelona who created Bios, an ecologically friendly cremains transformation company, make products that turn loss into gain and pain into growth. Their biodegradable urns and futuristic incubators sprout pines, redwoods, maples, oaks, and more.
Naturally, a garden is where the idea for Bios was first seeded. When Gerard was a child in Spain working with his grandmother on her blooms, they found and buried a dead bird. She sprinkled seeds in the soil where the grave lay, planting an idea in the boy’s mind that would sprout when he became a product designer.
Bios Tree technology.
In 1997, Gerard began working on his first transformative urn, making life from death. Eventually, he created a decomposing container for cremains that grows trees with help from ashes of the deceased.
In 2002, a friend planted a prototype in a garden in Barcelona—the princess tree now blossoms yearly, Roger tells Quartz. But it wasn’t until 2013, when he graduated from university, that the brothers created the company.
Bios, headquartered in Barcelona, began by selling its biodegradable urn that breaks down while blending soil, seed, and ashes, then sprouts. It costs about $150 and is planted outside—ashes nourish the soil while the vessel decomposes. Although there are are other biodegradable vessels for cremated remains made of clay or salt that break down in soil or dissolve in the ocean, Bios claims it’s the world’s only maker of a green urn that sprouts.
Soon the brothers saw another need. “After three years of connecting with people who planted the urn, we discovered that a lot of customers were also interested in the growing process, but they don’t have knowledge of trees and wanted help,” Roger explains.
This inspired the Bios Incube—a $450 wifi-enabled planter that comes with the company’s sprouting urn and connections. The incubator is linked to a network, which regulates growth, waters remotely, and allows people to watch cremains transform indoors. After, they can transplant the tree outside if they wish. The “after life incubator” was funded with $85,000 in Kickstarter contributions raised in 2016. Roger says there were 300 orders for the planter before its release at year’s end.
Bios Message from nature.
Bios customers are from around the world, according to Roger, the CEO. Most are from the US and Europe, some are in Japan and China, and there’s a growing market in Australia and New Zealand. Products are sold online and through funeral homes and crematoriums, though Roger says the company doesn’t attend funerary industry events because “we aren’t in the business of death.”
Nonetheless, in May, the first dedicated Bios urn space was created in Quebec, Canada at the Cimetière Catholique Granby through a partnership between a local distributor and the cemetery. It is aptly called the Garden of the Tree of Life. The plan is to grow trees where tombstones might otherwise stand, offering a green burial alternative that saves precious space.
Planting trees is arguably better for the planet than traditional burial. It uses fewer materials and nourishes the earth instead of taxing it.
Burial space is scarce worldwide. Toronto may have no room for graves within a decade. In 2013, a study found that within 20 years, half of Britain’s cemeteries will be full—one proposed solution is recycling graves, a routine practice in Germany. In Israel, underground burial tunnels attempt to address shortages. In Hong Kong, ashes are stored in sacks at cemeteries while families await burial space for urns.
Beyond the practical, the biodegradable urns serve a spiritual and symbolic purpose, Roger says. Seeing growths rise from the ashes helps grieving people connect to those they lost through new life.
In Vermont’s Green Mountains, for example, Jay Junker’s father’s cremains sprouted from an urn into a sturdy young oak on the family’s property. Junker believes it’s “a dream come true” for his dad, who loved the land, and it works for him too. “Some people go to church, but I find peace and tranquility and strength in nature,” he says. “In a few years I’ll be able to hang my hammock out there and just swing in the breeze with my dad by my side and watching over me.”
This New Urn Uses Cremation Ashes to Grow a Tree
Meet the Bios Urn – a biodegradable urn that uses soil and cremation ashes to grow a tree from the remains of your loved one.
Supported by a sensor and an app that track moisture, ground temperature, levels of light exposure, electrical conductivity, and humidity, and a device that automatically takes care of the watering, it’s a pretty cool way to memorialise someone in death.
No one likes to think about the death of a loved one, whether it’s friends, family, or even a dutiful pet, but the fact is we don’t ‘disappear’ when we die – our remains continue to have an impact on the environment, and as the planet gets more and more crowded, it’s time we reconsidered our options.
We all know the problems with burial – we’re fast running out of physical space to bury entire bodies, and once they’re underground, all the chemicals used for the embalming process, including formaldehyde, phenol, methanol, and glycerin, seep out into the soil.
There’s the incredible amount of resources that go into the actual casket too. According to the Berkeley Planning Journal, conventional burials in the US every year use 30 million feet (9 million metres) of hardwoods, 2,449 tonnes of copper and bronze, 94,593 tonnes of steel, and 1,484,154 tonnes of reinforced concrete.
Plus it takes a whole lot of water and fertilisers to keep plots looking so green, and they’re fast becoming a land sap. Tech Insider reports that if you added up the entire square footage of all the cemeteries in the US, it would measure 1 million acres of land.
Many people consider cremation the more environmentally friendly option, because it doesn’t take up land space, leak chemicals into the soil, or use up valuable resources, but it’s certainly not perfect.
First off, there’s the energy cost of burning bodies to ash. According to Leo Hickman at The Guardian, ” cremator uses about 285 kiloWatt hours of gas and 15kWh of electricity on average per cremation – roughly the same domestic energy demands as a single person for an entire month.”
And on top of the greenhouse gases that are produced by burning the body – including carbon monoxide, fine soot, sulphur dioxide, and heavy metals – Hickman reports that cremation is responsible for 16 percent of the UK’s mercury pollution (thanks to our dental fillings).
The problem is, besides burial and cremation, we don’t have a whole lot of options available to us in death.
Two Italian designers are working on ‘eco pods’ that act as natural caskets and sprout a tree from your remains, but are illegal according to current laws in Italy relating to what’s known as natural burials. “Italian law states that coffins can only be made out of wood and tin, and must be buried in a protected, controlled, and closed area,” Jessica Orwig reports for Business Insider.
In the US and the UK, natural burials are only allowed in a few, carefully selected properties, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
Another option is the so-called Mushroom Death Suit, but this also relies on a natural burial, and is currently undergoing trials.
So in the absence of more feasible, environmentally friendly, and legal options, we have to make the most of what we’ve got, and that’s where the Bios Urn comes into it. While it relies on the process of cremation, which isn’t great, it does give you and your loved one the opportunity to give something back – a tree.
Within the biodegradable urn, the ashes are placed alongside growth medium, soil, and the seed of your chosen tree. While the actual ashes are in fact sterile, by mixing it with other materials that are high in nutrients, you can still grow something from them.
The urn includes a built-in irrigation system and a reservoir that can hold about 20 days’ worth of water, so you don’t have to worry about a daily watering schedule.
As Gizmag explains, a sensor is also placed in the soil to track the moisture, ground temperature, levels of light exposure, electrical conductivity, and humidity, and it transmits this to an app so you can keep an eye on everything too.
Basically, the last thing you want to do is relive the death of a loved one by killing off their memorial tree, so the Bios Urn is designed to avoid that as best it can.
The inventors are currently raising funds for the urn via Kickstarter, and expect to start shipping them in November.
The developers of a biodegradable urn that turns the ashes of a dead person into a tree have designed an incubator to aid the growth process (+ slideshow).
The Bios Incube is the latest development from Bios Urn, the startup behind the biodegradable urn that holds cremated ashes and comes with a seed inside that grows into a tree.
When the urn is buried in the soil-filled smart incubator, users can monitor the progress of the plant’s growth using a smartphone app.
The Bios Incube is described as the “first tree incubator designed for the afterlife” by its designers.
“More and more people are looking for environmentally conscious and economically feasible ways to bury those who have passed, and the Bios Incube offers that and more,” said the Bios Urn team.
“It has been designed for city dwellers, those seeking ￼alternatives to cemeteries, and for people who want to meaningfully connect with their loved ones who have passed away,” they added.
Bios Urn was originally developed in 1997 by Spanish designer Gerard Moliné, who relaunched the product in 2013 with his brother Roger.
The Bios Incube, launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, is equipped with a built-in self-watering system that is triggered by a sensor device attached to the surface of the soil.
Water is held within a double-skin that surrounds the soil inside, then automatically released through a valve when needed.
The sensor also monitors moisture and temperature in the atmosphere and soil, while detecting levels of light exposure and assessing electrical conductivity.
All the data collected from the sensors is then combined and sent to a smartphone app – allowing users to remotely check on their tree, while providing them with advice for optimum maintenance.
Once the tree has sprouted, it can be removed from the incubator and planted in a desired location.
The designers believe that the urn will change the way people think about death by “converting the end of life into a transformation and a return to life through nature.”
“The topic of death and the process of grief is often sterilised and avoided in conversation for fear of being too taboo to discuss – we want to change that,” said Roger and Gerard Moliné.
“We believe the end of human life is a remarkable event that has the ability to teach us if we let it,” they added.
The Bios Incube is currently halfway towards its €60,000 (£46,500) goal on Kickstarter, with 26 days left of the crowdfunding campaign at the time of writing. If the project is successful, deliveries of the incubators for backers are expected to commence in May 2016.
The Bios Urn is planted in the incubator, where a sensor monitors its water levels to help growth before it is removed and replanted
Other designers have also created alternative products for holding cremated remains. Neil Conley’s non-traditional interpretation involves urns constructed from carbon fibre, while Mark Sturkenboom designed a “memory box” containing a dildo with a compartment for storing the ashes of a deceased partner.
Exploded diagram of the Bios Incube sensor