As an environmentally aware society, we are constantly trying to make eco-friendly decisions that promote sustainability. However, we tend to forget that our impact on the environment doesn’t stop when we die.
If you are among those who want to ensure that your burial or cremation is eco-friendly, there are many modern alternatives to consider, such as biodegradable urns, organic burial pods or even promession, which uses a process of freeze drying to break down the body of the person that has died.
A biodegradable urn is made from environmentally sustainable materials which can easily break down and become part of the natural environment when buried.
It is usually made from natural material such as recycled paper or cardboard, bamboo, willow or rock salt. Depending on whether it is a land or water burial, there are different types of biodegradable urns available today.
MOURN by Nienke Hoogvliet is a biodegradable urn made from a sustainable bioplastic called PHA (Poly Hydroxy Alkanoate). It is similar to regular plastic but completely dissolves in nature preventing soil and groundwater pollution.
Biodegradable urns can cost anything from about £20 to £300 depending on the brand and material it is made from.
Are human ashes biodegradable?
Human ashes are not biodegradable and their mineral contents can adversely affect plant life and the composition of the soil if buried, untreated. Cremation ashes also have a high level of sodium and pH levels, both of which have to be reduced in order to help plant life flourish when buried in earth.
What urns can be buried?
If you wish to bury or inter the cremated remains of a loved one, you could choose an eco-friendly cremation urn which can safely be buried and cause minimal damage to the environment.
Many green or woodland burial sites will accommodate biodegradable urns for burial. If you are planning to bury a biodegradable urn at a cemetery or churchyard, do check if this is acceptable by asking your funeral director.
Can you turn into a tree when you die?
Some bio urns available today are designed to turn the cremated ashes of a loved one into a tree when they die.
Products such as The Living Urn and Bios do exactly that. Both are types of biodegradable urns that contain a soil mix and a seed which are placed along with the cremated ashes in a biodegradable container.
These urns can then be planted and grown into a tree of your choice, creating an everlasting memorial tribute to your loved one.
Organic burial pods
A project called Capsula Mundi places the body in an egg-shaped, organic burial pod made of biodegradable material.
Ashes can be held in smaller egg-shaped biodegradable urns for cremation, while bodies are laid down in a fetal position in larger burial pods. A tree is then planted on top of the egg, for families to commemorate their loved one and continue to care for the tree as it grows.
The idea is that these organic burial pods will be approved for use in natural burial grounds, to eventually create beautiful woodland memorial parks.
Where is Capsula Mundi legal?
While the Capsula Mundi biodegradable urn is available for purchase, the Capsula Mundi burial pod for the body is still in the concept phase, and the founders are working on both the scientific and legal aspects of it.
However, it is hoped that the project would be deemed as acceptable in those countries that allow green burials.
Promession is a type of ecological burial that uses a method of freeze-drying to break down the body into fine particles that do not release any toxins into the earth when buried.
Pioneered by founder Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, it is a simple process which uses liquid nitrogen and a process of freezing and vibration to remove all water from the body, causing it to break down into granules which can then be buried.
Is Promession legal in the UK?
While Promession is legal in countries such as Sweden and Scotland, the concept is still in development and is not commercially available in the UK yet.
Read more information on green funerals and woodland burials in our Help & Resources section.