10 Important Things to Know Before Scattering Ashes
With the increase in the number of people being cremated (mainly due to a lower cost of cremation vs. burial, among other reasons), the number of families choosing to scatter a loved one’s ashes has also surged. It has quickly become one of the most popular memorial options for people and also for pets. For many families, the act of scattering the ashes of a loved one brings a feeling of peace and closure. Scattering ashes of a loved one lets them return to nature and many families feel it lets them release their spirit to Heaven.
Before you head out to visit your loved one’s favorite hiking trail or park to perform the scattering, it’s important to do some research and find out if there are any rules and regulations in your area and what those are. There are no national laws in the United States related to scattering ashes on land, however, there are federal laws around scattering ashes in water and local rules and regulations may exist.
Below we highlight 10 important things to know before scattering ashes of a loved one or pet.
Get Permission Before Scattering Ashes on Private Property
In most places throughout the U.S. you can to scatter ashes anywhere you want on private property that you own, however, if it’s private property owned by someone else, it is important to get permission first (and a good idea to get it in writing, if possible).
Stadiums and Amusement Parks are Private Property
It can sometimes be confusing to know the difference between private and public property. For example, a major league baseball or NFL stadium in your city is private property even though some of the stadium may have been funded by tax dollars. In addition, amusement parks are also private property and you would need permission to scatter ashes there.
While scattering a loved one’s ashes at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Disneyland, or another favorite spot is of interest to many, these are places where you need to obtain permission first. And, given the amount of families wanting to do this and their own policies, most sports stadiums and amusement parks will not permit scattering at their facility. Many times, if you're caught scattering ashes at a sports stadium or amusement park without permission, security or the police will get involved and this could result in fines, community service or even jail time.
Scattering Ashes at a Cemetery
Many families are interested in scattering their loved one at a cemetery – it may be a place where other family members or friends are buried, or simply a beautiful, peaceful setting where they can visit and remember their loved one. It is important to check with cemetery staff to find out if this is permitted or not. Many cemeteries now have designated areas to scatter ashes, often referred to as scattering gardens. These areas typically have benches, statues, trees, and other greenery that make for a beautiful setting. Some allow memorial stones or other markers to be placed there, while others do not.
You’re Allowed to Scatter Ashes at Sea
It is legal to scatter ashes at sea, however, anything put in the water (such as an urn, notes, flowers, or other things) needs to be biodegradable. In addition, per EPA rules, you need to be at least 3 nautical miles from shore to perform the scattering. And, within 30 days after performing a scattering at sea, you will need to file the appropriate forms with the EPA (if you hire a boat to do the service, the boat captain or owner typically handles this step for you). As for inland waterways, such as rivers and lakes, it is illegal to scatter in such places in some areas – it is recommended to check with local or county offices to find out if it is permitted in your area.
There are many ways to scatter ashes at sea with ease. One of the most popular ways now being offered by funeral homes is with the eco-friendly Eco Water Urn. This biodegradable urn comes packaged in an eco-friendly bamboo case that can be customized with your loved one’s name and other information, and floats upright like a buoy for up to a few minutes until the bottom breaks open and frees the ashes into the water below.
Scattering Ashes on Public Land is a Potential Option
Scattering ashes on public land is allowed in certain areas of the U.S. – if you have a special place in mind that’s on public land, check with your local city or county offices to find out if it’s allowed. Be mindful of other people and avoid scattering directly on a trail or other heavily trafficked area.
Be Mindful of Wind Conditions
Many people have seen the movie, The Big Lebowski, where they scatter a friend’s ashes and have it blow back onto them. Obviously, it’s important to avoid that happening to you or your family. Check the wind conditions before heading out to a scattering event. When you arrive at the location, you can grab a piece of grass or dirt and throw it in the air to see what direction it moves. If it is a really windy day, you may consider postponing to another day when the weather is more favorable. In addition, scattering with an urn that makes it easy on you to scatter away from your body. With their long cylindrical shape, the biodegradable Eco Scattering Urn and Simplicity Urn are great options for that.
If you plan on driving with the ashes to one or more locations to scatter, make sure the ashes are secured within the urn and the urn is kept upright in the car to avoid any of the ashes spilling out. If the trip to your destination involves flying with ashes, be sure to bring the certificate of cremation and a copy of the death certificate with you to present to TSA and the airline, if necessary. In addition, be sure to have the ashes in an urn that can be scanned by TSA so you’re allowed to pass through security with it. This would include urns made from bamboo, wood, cellulose fiber, and other biodegradable materials. Avoid urns that are made from metal when flying.
Choosing the Right Urn
There are thousands of urn options available today, with more coming out each month. It’s important that you find an urn that represents your loved one and what you plan on doing with the remains. With the surge in the number of people choosing cremation, more and more urns have been introduced in recent years and many families are also choosing to divide up a loved one’s ashes into more than one memorial.
Some of the more popular urn options for scattering include the Eco Water Urn, an urn that makes it easy to have a dignified scattering memorial in water, and the Eco Scattering Urn, an eco-friendly scattering urn that makes it easy on families to scatter at one or multiple locations. Other popular options includes The Living Urn, an urn and planting system that grows a tree memorial, the Living Urn Indoors, where you can grow a bonsai tree or houseplant indoors from the urn holding your loved one’s ashes, ash infused glass keepsakes, stones made from your loved one’s ashes, and many others that you can find with a quick online search.
Avoid Crowds & Be Considerate of Others
It’s important to avoid other people when scattering a loved one’s ashes. Stay off main hiking trails and if it’s a location that you expect will get crowded during the day, try arriving at sunrise to get a great view and avoid having people around that aren’t part of your family or friend group.
Consider a Scattering Ceremony
Many families are choosing to include a scattering event as part of the funeral service and give certain people or everybody present the option to participate in the actual scattering. You can have flowers, mementos of your loved one, pictures, and other items present and have family members and friends to speak. Drinks, food, and music are also other things to consider. Some people will also choose to hire a celebrant to help plan and officiate the entire ceremony, which can take a lot of stress off of the family. With a quick internet search or a call to your local funeral director, you can typically find multiple options for celebrants in your area.