Trees Replace Graves to Curb Global Warming

Trees Replace Graves to Curb Global Warming

Imagine if every major city had its own forest and all the trees were marked with names of the dead; living graves which honor loved ones and curb global warming through reforestation. Pine, spruce, oak, dogwood, coral, birch, giant redwood, or flowering cherry; each a sustainable memorial that will arrest CO2 indefinitely. This beautiful idea is made possible by new biodegradable funerary urns that use the ashes of the deceased to nurture a seedling.

Richard Houghton of the Woods Hole Research Center has estimated that around 500 million acres of planted trees would make a very significant impact on global warming in just a few decades. If that sounds like a lot of land, consider that in the current global population of 7.153 billion roughly 56 million people die each year, and that number is expected to increase to 80 million per year by 2040. Given that it takes as many as seven bio-urns to hold all the ashes of an average adult and thus seven planted trees, cemetery forests could easily cover more than 500 million acres in less than a decade.

Trees Replace Graves to Curb Global Warming
Biodegradable urn turns the ashes of a loved one into nutrients for a tree.

Where can all those trees be planted? Ideally they would be close to home as traditional cemeteries have always been, but as to the amount of available space there is roughly 10 times that amount of land in pasture right now, so there would be no need to use land required for crop production. In addition to their power to curb global warming, a forest of trees planted where new graves would be laid would improve biodiversity by replacing the natural areas lost to urban sprawl and deforestation.

The biodegradable urns work by combining the ashes of the deceased, which on their own would be harmful to plants, with a mix of other natural substances that allow the plant to utilize the calcium in ashes. In this way the remains of the loved on literally become part of the tree.

With a product called Spiritree, the tree seed of your choice is planted in the center of a biodegradable cinerary urn that looks somewhat like a ceramic doughnut. The remains are sprinkled into the bottom shell and covered by a ceramic top. Over time the tree gradually consumes the biodegradable bottom shell, and as it grows it breaks the ceramic top.

Another product, Eterni Trees, offers a wide variety of pre-mixed cremation urns which contain the seed of a tree and nutrient mix. Five to seven of these urns are needed to hold all the ashes of an adult as each only holds a small mount. Alternatively, Bios Urn can hold much more ashes, but its included nutrient system is not designed specifically for absorbing the nutrients from the ashes. They recommend burying the urn with a plant or bud as opposed to a seed to ensure germination and growth, or to bury the urn next to an existing tree.

The simplicity of these products allows for loved ones to be planted on private residences. While tree cemeteries would go a long way towards reforestation and biodiversity, a single tree planted in a home garden with a loved one’s ashes will still benefit the environment. Planting trees to replace graves is also an option for families who want to honor a deceased pet, and kids can feel good that Fido went on to curb global warming.

By Mimi Mudd

Union of Concerned Scientists
The Spiritree

10 Responses to "Trees Replace Graves to Curb Global Warming"

  1. Keith Mailloux   February 22, 2019 at 7:40 am

    I visited multiple web sites except the audio quality foraudio songs present at this web site is genuinely fabulous.

  2. Constance   May 8, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Green cemeteries are slowly gaining acceptance with people. I am surprised that this article says that human ashes by themselves are not good for plants or trees
    I can find no basis for this. Likewise, a particular urn is not needed
    A brown paper bag will suffice. Please check out local regulate before purchasing unnecessary items. If you have real estate outside of a municipality you generally can bury without the necessity of a traditional casket or vault or urn. Embalming also is not required. Funeral services and merchandise are greatly overpriced and most not needed. Check with your state funeral licensing board for what is legally required.

  3. CHRIS ILLER   June 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Are there any designated cemeteries that are letting the bio-urns be planted. I think a cemetery that’s actually a forest of trees with name plates on them would be awesome. But I can’t find any cemetery that’s doing it yet. If you know of one please post.

  4. Brian J Monahan   May 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Finally, a Place were you can be recognised as an Equal non-Alien , depending on what location youre tree is planted of course-And what sex youre tree is-AWEN!

  5. Sally Griffith   May 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    My mother’s ashes were mixed with a good fertilizer and a lovely shade tree in a nearby park marks her life. No plaque or anything, but we know it’s Mom’s tree. She wanted a shade tree so that people could enjoy the tree. My kids know that I want the same.

  6. Maureen Weldon   May 2, 2014 at 11:32 am

    This is the best . I’m sure their will be a law against it soon.

  7. annewayman   May 1, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Great idea… maybe could also add a biodegradable plaque for those who want a grave to visit.

  8. margitpapst   April 30, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Me too I love the idea when i’ll be gone to be a tree,this makes sense.

  9. Roxy Martin   April 30, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    My Mother and Grandmothers ashes were placed in the ground with Azalea bushes, and Spruce pine trees on my property. They both loved it here and they get to bloom every year!

  10. vicki a widener   April 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I love this idea ! It is so much nicer than all the graveyards that are around ! With more people opting for cremation it makes perfect sense !


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