How to Turn Cremated Remains into a Tree: Step-By-Step

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A big part of end-of-life planning involves deciding what you want your final resting place to look like. Most people envision a traditional burial in a cemetery or maybe consider cremation. But you can do all kinds of amazing things, even after you die.

Jump ahead to these sections:

You can be buried at sea. You can have your ashes shot into space or turned into a diamond with a company like Eterneva. And believe it or not, you can even become a tree when you die. Sound too unbelievable to be true? Keep reading to find out more.   

Steps for Turning Cremated Remains into a Tree with a Biodegradable Urn

It’s a lot easier than you might think to turn yourself or a loved one into a tree after death. It involves the use of a biodegradable urn. Here, we break down the steps for you.

Step 1: Pick an urn

Various companies offer products that can help you or a loved one become a tree after death. Take time to do the research into all the options available. Here’s a brief list of some of the companies that offer materials for a cremation tree:

  • Bios: The Bios Urn is a biodegradable urn made of two separate capsules. The first contains a seed or seedling of your choice, which will grow into a tree. The second capsule holds cremated remains. The entire biodegradable vessel is planted underground, where the seed or seedling should grow. 
  • EterniTrees: Oregon-based company EterniTrees also offers a biodegradable urn. The upper chamber of the urn contains a planting medium mixed with human ashes, turning them into plant food. The urn also includes seeds to grow your tree of choice. 
  • The Living Urn: This company was the first in the United States to sell a biodegradable cremation tree urn. Like the other companies, ashes can be mixed with an additive that helps plants grow. You can also order a young tree to be planted directly into Bio Urns. The urn is buried in the ground, where the ashes nourish the tree's roots as it grows. 

Each company features plantable urns with its own proprietary design. They can troubleshoot with you in case of a failed planting. Read each website in detail to find out what setup will work best for you and your family.  

Tip: If you decide to keep some of the ashes and are looking for something very unique to display (think a game, a classic car, or instrument of choice), you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence. You submit a design idea or sketch, then the company designs and 3D prints your urn, so you get a 100% unique container.

Step 2: Select a tree

Each company listed above offers seeds or saplings from a wide assortment of trees. You can pick a tree that will work best for your particular climate or environment. If a tree holds personal significance to you and your loved ones, you can see if that option is available.

Like flowers, trees can also have symbolism attached to them. Research the different kinds of trees you can choose from. You might be able to pick one out that has a particular meaning you identify with. 

Step 3: Pick a location for your tree

Planting a cremation tree is a unique and beautiful way to memorialize someone. It’s essential to pick out the right place to plant it, though. It’s best to stick to private property with a memorial tree. That way, you have some control over what happens to it in the future.

If you own a home and plan to stay there indefinitely, your yard is a great place to plant a cremation tree. Or if there’s a family vacation home that relatives share, that might a good place to plant a cremation tree.

At least one of the companies mentioned above has locations where customers can plant their memorial trees. And that’s something worth taking into consideration.

Step 4: Follow directions to add ashes to the urn

As we’ve said, each of the companies that offer cremation urns has its own unique design. Once you’ve selected what company to use, it will ship you an urn and the accompanying planting materials you might need.

Follow the instructions to add ashes to the biodegradable urn. They will usually be combined with some kind of additive or plant food. This neutralizes anything in the ashes that might hinder plant growth. It also adds beneficial nutrients to help the tree that grows from the urn to thrive.

The urns from the companies above only require a small quantity of ashes. You’ll be able to add approximately a cup of cremains to the biodegradable urn. This allows you to plant multiple memorial trees or hold on to some of the ashes to display in an urn. 

Step 5: Plant the urn

Once you’ve added the ashes to the cremation tree urn, plant the urn according to the accompanying instructions.

Depending on which company you use, you might plant a seed or a sapling. Follow any planting directions that the company sends.

Step 6: Continue tending to the tree

Remember that your tree is a living thing, and it will need care as it grows.

Take the time to learn what you need to do to help your tree grow successfully. Your young tree will likely need a lot of water and watered regularly throughout its first year. 

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Other Ways to Turn Your Cremains into a Tree

We’ve talked about one particular way of turning cremains into a tree. But there are other ways to achieve this goal without using a biodegradable cremation urn as the base of a tree. So here are some other creative ways of quite literally becoming one with nature. 

Be buried in a green cemetery

In recent years, we’ve come to learn more about how harmful traditional burials can be for the environment. Coffins are made of heavy woods and metal that won’t break down for centuries. Bodies are treated with chemicals before they are buried. All of this has a significant environmental impact. As a result, more people are turning to eco-friendly burial alternatives like green cemeteries.

When you’re buried in a green cemetery, your body is wrapped in a cloth or interred in a biodegradable coffin. Wicker coffins are a popular choice. Your body is not embalmed or treated with any chemicals. What this means is that your body will break down in the soil much more quickly.

The bodies buried in green cemeteries actually enrich the soil. And as green cemeteries are typically filled with trees and natural beauty, you can see beauty all around you.   

Look into alkaline hydrolysis as a cremation alternative

Many people turn to cremation as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burials. But cremations involve flame and heat, so they still consume energy and release carbon emissions into the air.

Alkaline hydrolysis (also sometimes referred to as flameless cremation) is a chemical process. It uses 95% water and 5% alkali (also known as potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, or lye) to reduce a body to liquid and bone. The bones can be turned into a substance similar to cremation ash. The liquid byproduct of the water cremation can be reclaimed and used as a liquid fertilizer. For example, it could go directly on trees and help them grow. 

Alkaline hydrolysis isn’t legal everywhere — so far, it’s legal in California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington. But businesses are springing up in those states to make this burial practice more accessible.   

Scatter ashes in a forest

Often, people decide to keep the cremains of their loved ones and display them in urns for ashes. But sometimes, people decide to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in a meaningful place.

Many public areas like national parks allow people to scatter ashes there. You may just have to get a special permit. Then, in the future, you can go to that particular spot and look at the trees and feel as though your loved one is among them. 

Become cremation stones

Another way to return to nature without becoming a tree is by becoming stones instead. With Parting Stone, your cremated remains can become between 40 and 60 beautiful, natural-looking stones that your loved ones can hold in their hands. They can keep them at home or place them somewhere meaningful in nature as an alternative to a cremation tree. 

Plant a tree in a memorial forest

If you bury a loved one in a cemetery, you always have a place to go where you feel close to him or her. But if you opt out of a traditional burial, you might feel adrift. You may not have anywhere specific to memorialize someone who has passed away.

A memorial forest is a protected, privately-owned area where you can plant a memorial tree. Some will allow you to use cremation urns from the companies listed earlier. Others will just have you plant a tree in honor of a lost loved one. Either way, it serves as a lovely and lasting memorial in a place you can access for years to come.   

Become One with a Tree After Death

It may surprise you to learn just how advanced the funeral industry can be. Like in any other industry, you’ll find constant evolution and advancement in processes. As our attitudes about and relationship to death change, so do our burial practices. Innovators look to the future for cutting-edge trends like tree pod burials.

But sometimes, it’s the simplest thing—like returning to nature in the form of a tree—that seems the most cutting-edge.  

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