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cremation ashes

Facts About Cremation and Ashes

More and more people throughout the world are choosing to be cremated instead of buried. This is mainly due to a much lower cremation cost (vs. burial) and that many families are less traditional than before, among other reasons.  According to the National Funeral Director’s Association (NFDA), the cremation trend is expected to accelerate. The NFDA expects that nearly 80% of Americans will choose cremation by 2035, up from 25% in 1999 and about 50% in 2017. With the significant increase in the number of people choosing to be cremated, many families have questions around cremation and human ashes - below we provide answers to some of the more common ones.

What are Human Ashes?

cremation ashes

The human body is comprised mainly of water, carbon, and bone. The high temperatures present during the cremation process eliminates all tissue, organs, and other organic matter. After a cremation is done, only bone fragments remain. In most countries, including the U.S., these fragments are typically processed to reduce them to a dense granular form.

What Do Cremation Ashes Look Like?

Cremation ashes are typically light grey or white in color and the texture is relatively uniform, but coarse. An average adult’s cremation ashes weigh about 5 pounds and have an approximate volume of 170 to 200 cubic inches.

Is Each Set of Human Ashes Unique?

Yes, every set of cremation ashes is unique. Common elements present in ashes include chromium, nickel, strontium, manganese, cobalt, and iron, among others, and each set of cremation ashes has varying levels of these elements. The type and levels of the elements differ because of a number of reasons, including the diet of the person and the environment where they lived. Elements are absorbed by a human skeleton throughout a person’s lifetime, providing a distinct elemental footprint in their cremation ashes.

Are There Any Health Risks Present with Human Ashes?

Cremation ashes are harmless and pose no health risks to people or the environment. Through the cremation process, all organic material is eliminated and only bone fragments, minerals, and salts remain.

How Long Does a Cremation Take?

On average, the cremation process takes 1 to 3 hours. This range depends on the size of the person and the type of cremation system used. Many funeral homes will provide the cremation ashes back to the family within 5 to 10 days. The reason for this is that there are certain rules and regulations that need to be followed prior to the cremation taking place, and some funeral homes and crematoriums have a backlog.

Can I Witness the Cremation?

Many funeral homes and cremation service providers allow families to witness the cremation. This typically involves viewing the biodegradable casket with a loved one’s body inside being moved into the cremation chamber.

How Much Does a Cremation Cost?

The average direct cremation costs $1,100, however, there are typically many other fees and other things to consider. Click here to learn more about the various products and services that are available with a cremation and the cost of each.

How Do I Choose a Funeral Home or Cremation Service Provider?

Many funeral homes either have their own crematorium, or work with a trusted cremation service provider. Alternatively, direct cremations are becoming more and more common where families can work directly with the provider of the cremation service. Which one to choose can be a challenge to figure out at the time of a loved one’s passing. Many people ask friends and family for recommendations, check reviews online, and call or visit a few different locations prior to making a decision. Be sure to ask any questions that come to mind and find out if their cost fits within your budget. For more helpful information on selecting a funeral home or cremation service provider, click here.

Can I Have a Funeral or Memorial Service with a Cremation?

Yes, may families chose to have a service either before or after a loved one is cremated. If this is held prior to a cremation, there can be a viewing and the body can be present during the service. If it’s held after a cremation, many families will have the urn present with the cremation ashes. This service can be as formal or informal as a family wants. In addition, many families are choosing to do this at a special place outdoors or at another unique place. Also, during the current COVID-19 outbreak, be sure to practice social distancing at funerals.

What Urns Are Recommended for Human Ashes?

There are thousands of urns available online and at funeral homes throughout the country. This includes traditional indoor urns made from wood, metal, or ceramic, that range in price from a hundred to thousands of dollars and give you the ability to keep your loved one’s ashes inside the home. There are also many new biodegradable and other urns available online and at funeral homes that provide for an uplifting memorial. These new and unique urns incorporate a portion or all of a loved one’s cremation ashes - below we highlight some of the more popular ones.

Tree Burial

Tree burials are becoming more and more popular throughout the world. With The Living Urn, a family can choose to use a portion or all of their loved one’s ashes and grow a beautiful living memorial to honor a loved one. This living tree memorial can display an array of color and give a special place where families can visit and remember a loved one.

Water Burial

With the growing amount of people choosing cremation, water burials are becoming more and more popular. This involves using a biodegradable urn, such as the patent pending Eco Water Urn, to gracefully scatter a loved one’s ashes in the water. If this is of interest to you, many boating services at ports throughout the U.S. will take you and your family out on the water to perform the water burial.


Scattering is one of the most common memorials that families do with a portion or all of their loved one’s cremation ashes. This can be done at a special meaningful place, a vacation destination, or another beautiful location or multiple locations outdoors. A common way families are choosing to scatter ashes of a loved one is with the Eco Scattering Urn. This patent pending, TSA compliant urn is made entirely from bamboo and comes with a special locking mechanism to secure the ashes in the urn while traveling to that special place (or places) to scatter. Starting at $49, it’s an affordable option for many families.

Indoor Planter Urn

The Living Urn now offers indoor planter urns for ashes made from high quality porcelain that are designed to hold a loved one’s cremation ashes and grow a beautiful houseplant or bonsai tree from the center of the urn. These can be placed inside the home or on a patio. A second option is the new PlantUrn, which is a decorative indoor urn made from recycled wood that holds a loved one’s ashes and comes with a small ceramic pot on top where a succulent can be planted.

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