News / USA

    Forest Burials Gain Ground

    Americans looking for more natural burial site have loved ones' ashes interred among trees

    A small bronze plaque on the tree lists the people buried there as well as their dates of birth and when they died.
    A small bronze plaque on the tree lists the people buried there as well as their dates of birth and when they died.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Growing numbers of communities in the United States are facing a painful new reality: they're running out of cemetery space, making traditional burials, especially in urban areas, extremely expensive.  

    More Americans are opting for cremation and a new company is offering a special place to bury their cremated remains: the forest.

    EcoEternity

    Sunlight filters through leaves overhead.

    A wide woodland trail, winds through the trees. This looks like a forest preserve, but it is not. It is an EcoEternity Forest. The first of four in the United States, it opened in October 2007.

    "We opened two more in 2008, one in 2009.  We haven't opened any this year, but we have about 6 in one stage (of development) or another," says Jack Lowe, president of the company.

    He says 53 people are interred in the four forests, and up to 280 people have reserved places.

    According to Lowe, the concept of forest burials started in Switzerland and has also been introduced in South Korea.

    Saving money

    Lowe says cost is one of the main reasons people in the U.S. have been attracted to the idea.  

    Although expenses vary with location, the bill for a traditional American funeral, complete with casket and attendant services, starts at about $10,000, and often runs much higher.  

    By comparison, Lowe says, "You are probably talking about $2800 for a cremation and interment in the forest - all included."

    Lowe says there is a huge shift in the U.S. towards cremation.  But, he says most of his clients are not actually planning for their own funerals and interment, or even dealing with the remains of the recently deceased.

    "More than 50 percent of our business starts with somebody who has ashes at home."

    Carol Sawtell, 90, plans to have her ashes buried in the forest, along with those of her late husband, Robert.
    Carol Sawtell, 90, plans to have her ashes buried in the forest, along with those of her late husband, Robert.

    Carol Sawtell, 90, is one of those people. Her husband, Robert, died in 1992. "I had his ashes in my bedroom on the dresser in a nice, lovely urn," she says.  "I was going to keep them until I passed on and then have them thrown over the Cascade Mountains all together, but I never could find anybody who would volunteer to throw my ashes out of an airplane, so instead, I am going to have my ashes buried here, too."

    Ashes are buried in an EcoEternity Forest at the roots of a tree in biodegradable urns made of corn starch.  Small bronze plaques commemorating loved ones are placed on the back of the trees, so they aren't visible as you walk along the wooded path.

    The natural setting was one of the things that appealed to Marion Eberhardt, who has reserved a place for herself here.  "It's nature.  It's beautiful.  And we're in a biodegradable urn that will dissolve and feed the trees.  I like the whole idea of it."

    Ashes are buried at the base of trees in biodegradable urns made of corn starch.
    Ashes are buried at the base of trees in biodegradable urns made of corn starch.

    Environmentally-friendly choice

    According to the company brochure, "the tree will absorb the nutrients of the ashes" over time.

    That is a much more environmentally-friendly way to leave the earth than a traditional U.S. burial, according to Rev. Rick Dawson.  "When we started looking at the way people are buried, with all of the chemicals that are put into them and the spaces we are using, it just didn't seem like a good use of our environment."

    Dawson, a Methodist minister, is executive director of Camp High Road, a Methodist summer camp and retreat that owns the one-hectare forest.  The land has been a buffer between the community and the camp since its founding more than 60 years ago.  

    For Dawson, converting it into a cemetery fit in perfectly with his ministry. "We do baptisms out here. We have kids come out here for retreats. They come out here and are married out here," he says. "The one thing we didn't do was close the loop (by providing a place of interment), so this idea was perfect for us."

    Memorial trees in EcoEternity Forests are numbered with small tags. A green band means a tree is still available.
    Memorial trees in EcoEternity Forests are numbered with small tags. A green band means a tree is still available.

    There are 300 trees in the forest that have been designated "living memorials." Some have been reserved by a family or group of friends. Some trees are community trees, where individual space can be reserved.  

    According to EcoEternity Forest president Jack Lowe, the fees - $4,500 for a tree or $900 for a space at a community tree - help maintain the forest, which the lease contract guarantees will be preserved for 99 years.

    Reverend Dawson says as far as the Methodist Church is concerned, this forest is now a holy place and it will be here not just for 99 years, but forever.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora