Biodegradable Urns - 2021 Comprehensive Guide

With many more people choosing to be cremated (instead of buried) and a growing movement toward eco-friendly products, biodegradable urn options are in high demand.

Everything you need to know about biodegradable urns

What is a biodegradable urn? | What are biodegradable urns made of? | How long does it take a biodegradable urn to dissolve? | What can you do with a biodegradable urn? | What types of biodegradable urns are available? | Where can I buy a biodegradable urn? | Cost of biodegradable urns | TSA compliant urns | Size options | Custom biodegradable urns | What biodegradable urn is right for you?

What is a biodegradable urn?

biodegradable urn

A biodegradable urn is a box, cylinder, or other receptacle that holds cremated remains and biodegrades over a few minutes to up to a few years. Biodegradable urns are designed to break down naturally in nature without leaving a carbon footprint.

What are biodegradable urns made of?

bamboo urn

There are a wide variety of materials used to make biodegradable urns. Below we highlight some of the most common ones:

  • Bamboo: this has become a popular material that biodegradable urns are made from. The reason is it’s one of the strongest building materials (so it’s sturdy and durable), lightweight so easy to transport, and grows extremely fast so it’s sustainable and eco-friendly.
  • Plant Materials: Urns such as The Living Urn’s BioUrn and the Eco Water Urn are two examples of urns made from plant materials. These will stay rigid above ground and can be stored for years, and only start to biodegrade once buried or placed in the water.
  • Wood: Wood urns are typically considered more “traditional” and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. These typically include a laminate or oil on top that helps protect the urn and slows any possible degradation. Many wood urns will only start to biodegrade once buried, and even then it can take years.
  • Paper: Paper urns are commonly used in scattering events. These typically come with a design or scene printed on the outside of the urn. If a laminate is used to cover the urn (which is quite common), this material will slow the degrading process.

Other types of materials used to construct biodegradable urns include compacted peat, wool fiber, and coconut shells.

How long does it take for a biodegradable urn to dissolve?

urn nature

The amount of time it takes a biodegradable urn to dissolve depends on the type of material used to construct the urn and the intended use of the urn. Some biodegradable urns made from plant materials that are used in a water burial, such as the Eco Water Urn, come in contact with the water and begin to break down in just a few minutes. Alternatively, other urns made from wood can take years or even decades to degrade once buried.

In addition, many of the biodegradable urns available will not begin to biodegrade until they are buried (and come into contact with soil), placed in the water, or left outside in the elements. This includes The Living Urn’s proprietary BioUrn®, which will only begin to break down once planted. If you keep a biodegradable urn indoors or in a dry place, most will stay in-tact and rigid.

What can you do with a biodegradable urn?

biodegradable urn

There are many different types of biodegradable urns with a number of different uses. Below we highlight the most common things people do with biodegradable urns.

Grow a tree

The Living Urn's is a patented biodegradable urn and planting system that gives you the ability to grow a beautiful tree memorial of a loved one at a place of your choosing. Select your tree type from over 50 different options, plant it in the BioUrn® and watch it grow!

Scatter ashes (on land)

Many people choose to use a bamboo or paper biodegradable scattering urn to spread their loved one's ashes at a place in their yard, a favorite vacation spot, childhood home, or another place that holds special meaning to the family.

Scatter ashes (in water)

A sea burial, or water burial, is a common memorial option chosen by people who have a special connection to the water. There are multiple biodegradable water urn options available that float and then release the ashes in the water below.

Bury ashes

More and more people are choosing to be cremated due to a much lower cremation cost (vs. burial), among many other reasons. With cremation, you can still be buried and many choose to use a biodegradable burial urn for this purpose.

What types of biodegradable urns are available?

biodegradable urns

There are many types of biodegradable urns available on the market today and many more introduced each year. Below we highlight some of the most popular ones sold by funeral homes throughout the world.

  • The Living Urn®: this patented system comes with its proprietary BioUrn® made from recycled plant materials that holds cremated remains, soil additives and the roots of a tree to grow a beautiful living memorial. Once planted, the BioUrn® begins to soften and breaks down within a few months so it doesn’t impede root growth.  The Living Urn also comes with RootProtect®, a special soil additive, and mulch. It is packaged in an eco-friendly bamboo casing that can be engraved with a loved one’s information and symbol of choice. In addition, families can choose from over 50 tree and shrub options, which are narrowed down by zip code to the ones that grow best in each area of the U.S.
  • Eco Burial Urn: this special biodegradable urn is a unique cylinder shape and is made entirely from bamboo, a sustainable and eco-friendly material. It comes with a birch locking pin on top and a handmade cotton bag to place cremated remains in (which is also biodegradable).  In addition, this special urn can also be engraved with your loved one’s information, a symbol, and a sentiment. While it’s intended use is to be buried, many families love the look of this urn and will keep it in the home.
  • Eco Scattering Urn: this unique eco-friendly urn has quickly become the scattering urn of choice offered by thousands of funeral homes nationwide. It is made entirely from bamboo, a sustainable resource, with a birch wood locking pin. It comes standard with a proprietary open/close locking mechanism on top that helps secure the ashes in the urn during transport and gives families the flexibility to scatter at one place, then resecure the remaining ashes in the urn to travel to another location to scatter. In addition, the Eco Scattering Urn comes packaged in a handmade cotton bag – making it easy to securely carry the urn holding a loved one’s ashes while hiking to that favorite spot, or traveling by plane or car. Similar to the Eco Burial Urn, engraving a loved one’s information and a symbol on the side of the Eco Scattering Urn is a popular option.
  • Eco Water Urn: this proprietary urn has quickly become the leading urn used for water burials nationwide. The biodegradable water urn is made from recycled plant materials with heat and pressure (no glue or toxic chemicals) and is designed to float on the water (similar to a buoy) for up to a few minutes until gracefully freeing a loved one’s ashes in the water below. Family and friends can write messages on the urn prior to the memorial event, making it extra special and personal. In addition, the water urn comes packaged in a cylinder bamboo case, which can be engraved with your loved one’s name, dates of birth and death, a sentiment, and a symbol of choice.
  • Flow, the Ice Urn: this patented urn is made entirely from ice and glistens as it floats gracefully on top of the water below. This stunning urn can float for up to twenty minutes before slowly releasing a loved one’s ashes from the bottom of the urn and into the water below. A beautiful memorial option that has been awarded multiple prestigious design awards.
  • PlantUrn: The PlantUrn is made from recycled hardwoods and is designed to be kept in the home. This beautiful urn has a top and bottom section that are held together with embedded rare earth magnets. In addition, it comes with a ceramic pot on top that holds a succulent or small plant, creating a beautiful display. The PlantUrn comes standard with a cotton bag that can hold your loved one’s ashes inside of the urn.
  • Paper Urns: There are many paper urn options available designed for scattering or burial. These are typically offered at similar price points to the bamboo options mentioned above and typically come with a design or picture printed on the outside of the urn.

Where can I buy a biodegradable urn?

Most families will either purchase a biodegradable urn through their local funeral home or from a reputable website, such as www.thelivingurn.com.

How much do biodegradable urns cost?

biodegradable urn cost

The cost of a biodegradable urn ranges from $49 to $500 and depends on the type of material used, the type of memorial it creates, and who you are buying it from. Scattering urns such as Eco Scattering starts at $49, the Eco Burial Urn can be found for $79, the Eco Water Urn retails for $129-$149 and The Living Urn ranges from $129-$495. 

Can I travel on an airplane with a biodegradable urn?

tsa urn

The short answer is yes! As long as the urn is made out of a biodegradable material and TSA can see the contents through an x-ray, then they are permissible to travel with through airports and on most airlines. It is typically recommended to have a copy of the death certificate and/or the certificate of cremation with you in case you’re asked to present paperwork to TSA or your airline (and check with TSA and your airline before traveling as the requirements can vary and change over time).

Do biodegradable urns come in different sizes?

biourn

Yes! Many of the biodegradable urns available today come in different sizes. For example, there is typically a keepsake version (which holds a small portion of the remains and is great for families who want to divide up the ashes among multiple family members or do multiple types of a memorials) and a larger version that holds up to one full set of a person’s remains. As a general rule of thumb, the cubic inches of the urn is approximately equivalent to the weight of the person. So, for example, a 200 lb. person would generally fit in an urn that is 200 cubic inches or larger. As this is not a perfect calculation, and if you want to include all of a loved one’s ashes in a single urn, it is always recommended to check with your funeral director or cremation service provider, or reach out to the customer service team of a trusted website you’re looking to buy from.

In addition, urns such as The Living Urn and the Eco Water Urn give you the flexibility to include only a small portion of the ashes in the urn and up to a full set of a person’s ashes. Simple instructions provided with these urns explain how it can be used with varying amounts of ashes.

Custom Biodegradable Urn Options

engraving biodegradable urns

Many companies offer engraving options on their biodegradable urns. This can help make the urn and memorial experience extra special and personal for a family. For example, for $39-$49 a loved one's name, dates of birth and death, a sentiment, and a symbol of choice can be engraved on the Eco Scattering Urn and Eco Burial Urn, as well as on the bamboo casing of The Living Urn and Eco Water Urn.

What biodegradable urn is right for you?

biodegradable urn

With so many biodegradable urn options available, it can seem overwhelming to choose one for yourself or a loved one. Since ashes have no expiration and can be used with a biodegradable urn at any time, many families will spend time doing their research before selecting a biodegradable urn. Other families who cannot decide on a single biodegradable urn or memorial, will order multiple biodegradable urns and divide up the ashes into more than one memorial for a loved one.

If the biodegradable urn options available today do not work for you, not to worry!  With a demand that continues to grow, more and more biodegradable urns are being introduced each year, including various biodegradable burial, scattering and planting urns.