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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid