Can You Make a Biodegradable Urn? 5 Different Ways


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One of the first things to consider when creating an end-of-life plan is what will happen to our bodies when we die. When thinking through this, consider not only what you imagine for yourself, but also the legacy you leave behind. For the majority of us, our environmental footprint is significant in our lifetimes.

Even if we do our best and recycle, our modern lifestyles affect the environment. We have an opportunity to do better in death. Not only can we minimize harm in our final resting place, but we can choose to nourish the environment with our burial.

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Whether you’re creating your own end-of-life plan or determining how to say goodbye to a loved one, consider the environmental impact. If you’re planning on cremation, you will need some type of urn for the ashes. Even if you’re planning on scattering the ashes directly into the water or earth, you will need something to carry the ashes.

One option to make this more sustainable and environmentally friendly is to use a biodegradable urn. Biodegradable means that your urn will naturally decompose by bacteria, other living organisms, or water. 

If you're crafty, you can create a biodegradable urn yourself. If you’re not a creative type, we’ve gathered some options for buying a biodegradable urn.

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Different Ways You Can Make a Biodegradable Urn

If you're planning on scattering, burying, or displaying ashes using a biodegradable urn, the most sustainable way to do so is to create the urn yourself. This is also a great option if you have a specific design in mind that would be impossible to buy. Here are several DIY biodegradable urns that you can personalize to best represent your family or your loved one.

1. Brown paper bag

You can simply use a biodegradable or compostable bag as an urn for your loved one's cremated remains. This is a wonderful option if you have many family members and friends who would like to keep a piece of your loved one. 

Divide the ashes between these bags, and divvy them up. You can all plant them together during a memorial ceremony, or people can choose to scatter the ashes in their backyard, garden, or anywhere in the world.

2. Water soluble bags

If you're planning to disperse your loved one’s remains into an ocean or lake, water-soluble bags are a simple DIY option. These bags typically come in blue and clear, so might not be the prettiest choice. However, you can always decorate the bags with flowers, shells, and other natural items to elevate the aesthetic.

3. Paper mache

Paper mache isn’t just for children’s art projects! You can create a beautiful, biodegradable paper mache urn. Just make sure you use all environmentally safe materials. 

A paper mache urn can be displayed in your home for as long as you wish, and then you can use it to scatter ashes. The great thing about paper mache is that it will degrade into earth and water. You can choose if you want your loved one’s final resting place to be land or sea. 

Click here for a how-to video on paper mache urns.

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4. Seedling pot

A seedling pot is the perfect biodegradable urn to plant in a memorial garden. Here is a simple tutorial for a biodegradable seedling pot. Mix your loved one’s ashes with the soil, and plant away. You can display the pot in your home until you're ready to bury it in your garden.

5. Tree urn 

A popular request in end-of-life planning is that ashes be planted with a new tree. The idea of returning to the earth after death, and having a life grow out of this burial can be symbolic of being reborn.

This type of ash burial can bring a body back to the earth while being part of growing and sustaining a tree. Imagine the oxygen that your tree will impart to the world and its environmental benefits. There are many reasons why a cremation tree urn is a wonderful option. 

Find step-by-step instructions for creating a beautiful tree urn here. 

Where Can You Buy a Ready-to-Use Biodegradable Urn?

If DIY projects aren’t your thing, there are many options for buying a ready-to-use biodegradable urn.

The Living Urn

The Living Urn has several different options for biodegradable urns including tree urns, eco water urns, ice urns, indoor urns, and other scattering options.

  • For tree urns, The Living Urn has a menu of different tree options based on planting location. 
  • Their eco water urns cradle ashes in a beautiful holder that can be surrounded by flowers. First, the bottom dissolves into the water, releasing the ashes into the water as the top continues to float. Then the top dissolves, as well.  
  • The Living Urn also has a gorgeous ice urn that gracefully floats on the water, slowly freeing the ashes as it floats.
  • For indoor urns, they use natural materials such as bamboo to create beautiful display urns. There are options for bamboo or ceramic planters as well as plain bamboo boxes, 
  • If you're not interested in a tree, The Living Urn also has biodegradable bamboo burial urns and other options for scattering. They also offer a full-service eco ash scattering and memorial in some of the most magnificent places in the world.
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Passages International

Passages International has a wide variety of biodegradable urns for both land and water. 

There are many creative options.

  • Biodegradable earth urns include:
    • Gourd urns
    • Cornstarch urns
    • Bamboo urns 
    • Boxes and chests made from recycled, biodegradable paper and non-toxic glue
  • Water soluble urn options include:
    • Recycled, soluble paper and non-toxic glues fashioned into shells, turtles, and lotus flowers on lily pads
    • Sand and gelatin urns
    • Himalayan rock salt urns

Other Styles of Urns

If you're planning on displaying ashes in your home for a long period of time, you may consider a different type of urn. Biodegradable urns are meant to decompose by nature, and may not last. If you want your loved one’s ashes to remain intact for many years, a biodegradable urn is not your best bet.

There are many different types of urns.

  • Standard urns come in a variety of materials and are sized to hold adult ashes.
  • Keepsake urns may be smaller for a pet, child, or if an adult’s ashes are divided between loved ones.
  • Companion urns have enough space for multiple adults’ ashes.
  • Inclusion jewelry is an urn that can be worn as jewelry which includes a small amount of ashes.
  • Ashes can be turned into diamonds and gemstones as keepsakes for loved ones
  • If you're looking for a unique urn to display in your home, Foreverence makes fully customizable urns. These urns can be fashioned into musical instruments, cars, and even sports memorabilia. 

The Importance of the Choice

Picking out an urn for yourself or a loved one might feel like one of the more important decisions in an end-of-life plan. Take a breath and reflect on what you want the urn to symbolize.  Each person is unique, and urns can represent that individuality beautifully. 

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