We all like to do our bit for the environment while we’re alive, be it buying organic food, using low energy light bulbs or recycling wherever possible. But what about when we die?

‘Ashes to ashes and dust to dust’, so how about helping to grow a tree rather than a headstone?

An increasing number of people are choosing an environmental death, with their bodies buried or cremated chemical free and buried in fields and woods along with seeds to help create a new generation of woodland and green space.

New life, new firm

The concept of using your ashes to sustain new life is still in its infancy, with companies seeking crowd funding to turn their ideas into realty. One firm which has made it past the starting block is Bios Urn. It offers the option of being buried with a range of trees such as maple, pine or ash. You can choose a seed or sprout and your ashes sit in a pot below the seeds planted in a nutrient rich soil. The Bios Urn can then be planted where you want and you can also use the Bios Urn with the ashes of a beloved pet. It is looking for Kickstarter funding to bring the Bios Incube to market. This is a smart pot to plant your Bios Urn in, which detects when the tree needs watering and aims to provide the perfect environment for growth.

Also looking for funding is Capsula Mundi, which is about to start producing pods for ashes. The egg-shaped pod urns are made of biodegradable material and sit beneath the tree providing nutrients for the roots. However the company wants Kickstarter funding to produce a large pod allowing a body to be buried in a foetal position within the pod rather than be cremated first. Any kind of tree can then be planted above the pod to create what the manufacturer calls a ‘sacred forest’.

Organic caskets

There are other options whilst these are being developed, which combine the traditional with the organic. For example Bellacouche produces organic wool felt coffins suitable for both traditional and woodland burials and a wool urn. Alternatively you can chose a coffin made out of cardboard such as the ones produces by Greenfield Creations and Ecoffins, or from biodegradable materials such as bamboo or banana leaves.

Then you can choose to be buried in one of the many Woodland Burial Sites round the UK. Each site will have its own rules but typically you are buried amongst existing trees and woodland rather than have a tree buried above you. There are no grave stones but some sites allow a wooden marker on engraved stone. Alternatively there is nothing stopping you planting a tree with the ashes wherever you like. Make sure you don’t use chemicals to embalm the body directly after death though as these could pollute the soil and stop the tree growth.

Under a tree

Claire Fisher buried both her father and mother in the GreenAcres Woodland Burials, Epping Forest, Essex. They were cremated and buried under trees in the wood. “I love the fact we go back to nature in the burial sites, it makes perfect sense to me. We buried my father four years and ago and my mother two and they are now back together in the forest. We couldn’t plant a tree but have engraved wooden markers as the memorials. I like the idea of the tree and urn, but you would have to be careful where you planted it. If it was in your garden what would you do if you moved?”

Image courtesy of Bios Urn

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