Death is life's only inescapable truth, and the significance of its impact often has people trying to create meaning out of it. So it's no surprise that "green" funerals are gaining ground; in keeping an ecological consciousness in meaning-making, many are turning to alternative ways to commemorate their loved ones' remains.
One concept we've seen is the plantable urn, which holds the ashes of someone deceased and will eventually turn into a tree. While we've seen commercially unavailable designs, it's good to come across some that are actually manufactured, like the Spíritree, a biodegradable urn and tree planter made by San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Spíritree Forest Company.
Designed by architect José Fernando Vázquez Pérez of Hacedor Maker, the Spíritree was inspired by the passing of Vázquez Pérez's great-grandmother, which prompted Vázquez Pérez back in 2001 to begin conceptualizing a "device to make land sacred" -- which would not only serve as a "remembrance of the past, [but also] a renewal of life that restores the environment for everyone’s future."
A few years and a couple of patents later, Vázquez Pérez and his business partner Enrique Vila-Biaggi formally launched the Spíritree in 2005. So how does it work? Well, it's simple, but there's a lot of profound thoughtfulness in this beautiful design. The bottom shell is made out of a proprietary, biodegradable materials that aids in neutralizing the alkalinity of the cremated ashes, while the top cover is a hollow, ceramic shell with small holes that allow rainwater to be collected inside, and released slowly. This moisture helps the bottom shell decompose naturally, and as the shell breaks down, the cremated remains are gently recomposed with the soil underneath, ultimately transforming into nutrients for a growing sapling, which will someday shatter the ceramic top in the process. The result is a living tree, grown from what was once a product of death.
Spíritrees are handmade by local artisans in Puerto Rico, and during the last decade, have been shipped throughout the U.S. and far-off places like Canada, Mexico, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Slovenia, Japan, Australia, New Zeeland, and South Africa.
There's a distinct advantage to this method of memorialization: as Vázquez Pérez also tells us, Spíritrees enabled one family -- whose members lived all over the world -- to collectively commemorate a deceased, elderly mother. The family purchased five Spíritrees, and each grown child took a portion of their mother's ashes and grew a tree in their respective backyards that the children and grandchildren could "visit." (Now that is one way to be in five places at once...!)
The Spíritree is a lovely, elegant design with a lighter environmental impact, and priced at USD $225, is one affordable option for people looking for alternatives to the conventional but resource-intensive casket burial, while propagating forests at the same time. To find out more or purchase one, visit Spíritree Forest Company.