The number of cremations each year in the U.S. recently surpassed the number of burials and this trend continues to rise. One of the main reasons for this has to do with cremation cost, as cremation is typically much less expensive than burial. Another reason is that people are now more eco-conscious. Today, more than ever, people are choosing to be “green” not only while alive, but also after they have pass.
According to the Berkeley Planning Journal, each year traditional burials in the U.S. use 30 million feet of hardwoods, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, over 100,000 tons of steel and over 1.6 million tons of concrete. In addition, many people who are buried are embalmed and the U.S. alone consumes approximately 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid annually. This chemical cocktail contains formaldehyde and can leak into the soil and groundwater, making it toxic. Recognizing these facts and the environmental issues associated with burial, many people are moving away from this option and toward cremation.
While cremation is not perfect from an environmental standpoint, cremation technology has improved in recent years with better air filtration and fewer emissions. In addition, with cremation you’re not taking up the land space as you would with burial. Burials require cemeteries to continue to grow in size and therefore consume more and more of the precious land resources. If the estimated 75 million baby boomers, who will reach their average life expectancy over the next 25 years, choose to be buried, they will take up approximately 130 square miles of land (about the size of Atlanta!).
In addition, 'green' urn products are also becoming more and more popular as many people are interested in giving back to and preserving the earth they are leaving behind. There are now a number of biodegradable earth urns (or biotree urns) and biodegradable water urns available that allow families to honor a loved one in dignified, personal, and environmentally friendly ways.
Biodegradable Earth Urns
Biodegradable earth urns are made from bamboo, wood, paper, cardboard, and recycled plant materials. They range in price from about $50 to over $300. Many families use these to bury a loved one’s cremated ashes or to plant trees with ashes. Common places where people bury these urns include at home, at a local park, at a State or National Park, or at a church. Of course, it is important to get permission when required.
Two of the most popular biodegradable earth urns are Eco Burial and The Living Urn.
Eco Burial Urn
The Eco Burial Urn is made entirely from bamboo, one of the most eco-friendly building materials on the planet and a sustainable resource. While it is a biodegradable urn, it can also be kept in the home as a permanent decorative urn as it won’t biodegrade unless it is placed in the ground and exposed to soil and moisture. It can also be buried in a special place and will completely biodegrade allowing the ashes to return to the earth. This attractive burial urn is 220 cubic inches in size (large enough to hold all of the cremated ashes of most people). Due to its dignified look and “green” features, it is the biodegradable urn of choice for hundreds of funeral homes and has been part of thousands and thousands of burials throughout the world. Starting at $69, the Eco Burial Urn is also an affordable memorial option.
The Living Urn
The Living Urn is a patented bio urn and planting system that allows families to grow a memory tree from an urn containing the ashes of a loved one. Tens of thousands of Living Urns have been planted worldwide and this unique option continues to grow in popularity! This all-in-one system comes with everything needed to grow a beautiful and enduring tree memorial and includes detailed, easy-to-follow planting instructions for those of us who don’t have a green thumb. The Living Urn tree urn for ashes system ships the same day that you order and a living tree is shipped separately direct to your doorstep whenever you are ready to plant – choose from more than 50 beautiful options! There is a Living Urn unit designed specifically for people and another for pets.
Biodegradable Water Urns
A water burial of cremated ashes is also a very common memorial option. A water burial, or burial at sea, is a ceremony where a family will scatter their loved one’s ashes in the ocean or other body of water. For some, several family members will gather to disperse some or all of a loved one’s ashes in the water. For others, it can be a larger celebration and involve a boat and include a ceremony. To perform a water burial, you can use a simple container to scatter, or select one of the popular biodegradable urns specifically designed for this purpose.
Two of the most popular biodegradable water urns include the Eco Water Urn and Eco Scattering Urn.
Eco Water Urn
The Eco Water Urn is a new, patent pending, biodegradable urn specifically designed to be used in water burials. The urn is made from recycled plant materials and comes packaged in a beautiful, all natural bamboo case to protect the urn during transport (and also a nice touch for presentation purposes for ceremonies!). This unique biodegradable water urn floats upright like a buoy for a few minutes then gracefully releases the cremated ashes from the bottom of the urn into the water. In addition, many families place flowers or leis around the urn in the water, and some families choose to write special messages on the urn before the water burial. The Eco Water Urn is a favorite of funeral homes in the U.S.
Eco Scattering Urn
The patented line of Eco Scattering Urns are all-natural and entirely eco-friendly, made from bamboo, a sustainable and renewable resource. These special urns are designed for scattering ashes of a loved one with ease and control whether it is on land or in a body of water. The Eco Scattering Urn has a unique top that can be locked closed for safe transport and also be locked in an open position when it is time to scatter. Furthermore, it is one of the only urns available designed specifically for releasing cremated ashes and allows families to perform this special event with grace and dignity. Eco Scattering Urns are available in multiple sizes, depending on how much you want to scatter – all of the ashes or just a portion. In addition, the keepsake sized Eco Scattering Urn is great if you’re dividing ashes among multiple family members. Starting at $49, Eco Scattering Urns are not only beautiful, eco-friendly and functionally advantageous, they are also affordable. There's even a version that can be used with pet ashes!