7 Creative Ways People Are Going Green After They Die


There’s no question that green funerals are on the rise.

As people become more conscious of the impact they have on the environment and the carbon footprint they leave behind on our precious earth, it’s only natural these thoughts have an impact on their funeral planning decisions as well. In fact, in a 2008 survey by Kates-Boylston Publications, it was found that 43 percent of respondents would consider having an eco-friendly burial. And as the world continues to to emphasize the importance of “going green,” this trend is only sure to continue.

Now that more people are placing importance on green funerals, out-of-the-box, eco-friendly burial options are beginning to penetrate the funeral profession. If your families are looking for an end of life option that’s both different from a typical burial and a better choice for the environment, check out these seven creative ideas for going green:

#1: Be one with the sea


With the invention of Eternal Reefs, people can not only be buried at sea, but actually become a part of the sea, too. Eternal Reefs combines cremation urns, ash scattering, and burial at sea to create what they call a “permanent, living legacy.” The loved one’s cremated remains are added to an environmentally-safe cement mixture which is designed to create artificial reef formations in a location of the family’s choosing. One particular option we love allows families to mix the cremated remains into the cement mixture themselves or personalize it by adding mementos.

#2: Transform into a tree


Some families really love the idea of reconnecting with nature once they pass away. Thanks to the Bios Urn, your families’ remains can be put into a fully biodegradable urn that is designed to transform cremated remains into a tree after life. Once they choose from one of six tree seedling options, the family of the deceased will receive a box with everything they need to plant a tree on their own. And should they decide to turn their deceased pet into a tree when their time comes, a pet tree option is available as well.

#3: Decompose into compost


Who knew you could create life out of death? The Urban Death Project is a compost-based renewal system that transforms bodies into soil-building materials for farms and community gardens in the area. Within just a few months, aerobic decomposition and microbial activity decomposes the body, leaving a rich compost. Not only does the space literally create life out of death, but it also meant to be “a space for the contemplation of our place in the natural world.”

#4: Turn ashes into a diamond


Life Gem is a great way to make something beautiful out of death. They create unique diamonds (and jewelry to accent them) out of the carbon from cremated remains, a lock of hair, or both. It isn’t the cheapest option out there, but how awesome would it be for your families to be able to carry their loved ones around with them in the form of a diamond?

#5: Reduce their carbon footprint with Flameless Cremation


With more than 75% of Floridians opting for cremation, imagine all of the carbon dioxide, mercury and other toxic chemicals that are released into the air as a result. Anderson McQueen Funeral Home was the first funeral home to solve that problem with Flameless Cremation. Flameless Cremation involves using heated water and potassium hydroxide to liquefy the body, leaving only bones (which are then pulverized and returned to the families) behind. It leaves 75% less carbon output behind and 30% fuel than traditional cremation, which is a win-win for everyone.

#6: Give back to the earth through a “Mushroom Suit”


According to the Center for Disease Control, the human body has 219 toxic pollutants in it. So how do we keep those from being released into the Earth when we die? Jae Rhim Lee’s Infinity Burial Project suggests that we bury our loved ones in what she calls a “mushroom burial suit.” The suit is an organic cotton suit lined with a crocheted netting containing mushroom spores. Lee says these mushrooms will quickly break down a body and dispel the environmental toxins in the soil. Although it hasn’t been tested on humans yet, several people have offered to donate their bodies to her research.

#7: Let the music go on and on and on…

Who would have thought that you could turn ashes into a real vinyl record that plays music? Not us, that’s for sure. But when And Vinyly introduced the world to the idea of pressing a loved one’s ashes into a vinyl record, music lovers’ dreams became a reality. Should your families choose to go this route, they can add up to 12 minutes of recorded laughter, stories, songs, or nothing at all to “hear [their] pops and crackles for the minimum approach”.

What other creative green funeral ideas have you come across? Tell us in the comments below!

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  1. Christy Bolton

    I realize that it’s not legal in the US, yet. But Promession is an excellent option for true “green” burial. It also allows for the decedent or family to be creative with their remains. The process neutralizes any toxins inhabiting the body at the time of death and allows the bodily remains to retain their maximum nutrient content so that it can be feed back into life’s cycle.
    I’m surprised and disappointed that this option wasn’t even mentioned in your article. It will come to the US eventually. The knowledge of it and enthusiasm for it are increasing daily.

  2. Jevon Truesdale

    Don’t forget about Qi bestowment/gifting, which is only available with an Aquamation: Fire to Water System installation. This method of green cremation is not only sustainable but is actually carbon negative meaning that a benefit is gained from the loss.

  3. Darren Crouch

    You are correct. As folks lead greener more sustainable lifestyles, it is only natural (pun intended) that they will seek out greener funeral alternatives. The statistics confirm this. The key for funeral professionals is not to decide what they think is green, but rather to clearly communicate the choices families have. (This requires getting educated.) Then let the family pick and choose, how and where they decide to go green. The choices they make might surprise you. Some might opt for a biodegradable urn to place in the sea after cremation, others might decline embalming or select a wicker casket. I have talked to a funeral director in Los Angeles (where there were no green cemeteries) that drove a body to a San Francisco green cemetery because that’s what the family wanted. How green is it to drive 800 miles, round trip for a burial? Families will decide what “shade of green” aligns best with their values.

    As for an urn with a seed in it. There are two issues. One is that tree roots will not grow through or near cremated remains and that the other is that for germination, the seed needs to be close to surface. This creates potential liability issues, if the remains are not buried at an appropriate depth. I have exhibited at several Green Festivals and spoken to many folks that love the idea of “becoming a tree”. My recommendation, sell a biodegradable urn to bury under a tree that is already established, or if possible plant a tree where remains were scattered or buried in a biodegradable urn.