Uncommon Remains: 4 ways your ashes can sustain life on earth

More people choose to be cremated each year; whether it’s for financial reasons, because the traditional funeral home model is outdated, or because people are simply mobile throughout their lives and less likely to have a place they’d like to be buried, the trend is apparent.  As more people choose cremation, more families are faced with decisions on whether to inter, scatter or bury those cremains.

1 in 5 Americans is currently homing the cremains of a loved one, mainly a parent or spouse, typically because they don’t know what to do with them and scattering poses logistical and legal challenges. According to the Cremation Association of North America, the cremains of 300,000 Americans were returned to loved ones for home storage in 2017 alone.

The endless options for final disbursement can be overwhelming, so here are four ways that cremated remains, or cremains, can be used to nurture and sustain life on earth.


Become a raindrop

Based in the UK, Ascension Flights is a collaborative between funeral directors and leaders in space flight. “We’re all created from stardust” so ashes are sent over 100,000 feet above the earth’s surface and released into the atmosphere where they gather precipitation and return to the earth’s surface in the form of raindrops and snowflakes. Families can opt to view the video footage of the scattering and even submit their own historical footage to be compiled into a tribute film. Services are offered worldwide.


Grow a tree 

The Living Urn company offers a biodegradable urn which, when combined with wood chips, soil mixture and their proprietary ash neutralizing agent, will sustain a plant of your choice. The company works with the Arbor Day Foundation to offer over 20 different seedling options. The founders of the company worked with arborists, soil scientists and eco-friendly manufacturers to develop a complete system that can accommodate individuals, families and pets. Based in Colorado, products can be shipped worldwide.


Restore a reef

The Eternal Reef project offers a combination “cremation urn, ash scattering, and burial at sea.” Using environmentally-safe concrete and incorporating the cremated remains, reef balls help create permanent reef restoration and development, creating new habitats for sea life within weeks of placement. There are more than 10 active locations and representatives of the company continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers in developing new reef restoration projects.


Water the garden

While cremains contain calcium, potassium and phosphorus - all nutrients which plants need to grow - they also contain excessive amounts of sodium and can throw off the nutrient balance of the soil, leading to toxic conditions for plants. Bummer. Serving as a memorial sculpture and urn, this garden waterfall will hold the ash and slowly release it into the soil over the course of 10 years, even making space over time to accommodate more remains. The company, Scattering Ashes, is a UK-based service offering guidance, education, support and products related to all types of ash scattering.


There is no time limit for creating a ceremony to return a loved ones cremains to the earth, and if you’ve been looking for the right way to say a final goodbye, I’d love to help you explore your options.