The Greener Ways to Die

The Green Burial Council has a vision of replacing our grim, concrete graveyards with fields of trees. The American nonprofit wants to enforce international standards for sustainable funerals. It’s quick to note that no postmortem ceremony is “wrong”—but why not choose a dying option that treats your body as gently as you have during your life on earth? By its definitions, a green burial excludes the embalming chemicals, cement, steel, and all other nonbiodegradable materials common in conventional burials. It estimates that the United States uses 4.3 million gallons of carcinogenic embalming fluids, 1.6 billion tons of concrete, and 77,000 trees for funeral services every year.

It makes all the sense in the world: A humble wooden casket will dissolve into the earth, forgoing chemical treatments allows the body to decompose faster, trees make intimate grave markers, and burying the body just three to four feet deep allows better oxygen flow and more efficient decomposition. And if you happen to live in one of the fourteen states where the process is legal, aquamation—in which the body is decomposed through a combination of water, heat, and alkalinity—is reported to use just 10 percent of the energy of a flame cremation, and it reduces carbon emissions.

These practices might offer a poetic sense of closure to death. And besides—coming back as an oak tree doesn’t sound half bad.

Biodegradable Urns

Scattering ashes into the wind is a beautiful option, but creative minds have thought of new ways to make our remains more of a tribute to the earth.

  • Eternal Reef

    Eternal Reef

    Designed to replicate the natural marine environment, Reef Balls are concrete structures that allow microorganisms to inhabit and eventually rebuild damaged reef formations under water. Remains are mixed into the cement structure and lowered to the ocean floor—a legacy in the deep sea.

  • Spirit Tree

    Spirit Tree

    This two-piece urn is built of an organic, biodegradable bottom shell and a protective ceramic cover. Once filled with ashes and placed in the ground, the urn can hold young seeds, seedlings, or even a young tree in its center. As the plant blossoms, the ceramic shell falls apart, revealing the memorial tree.

  • Bios Incube

    Bios Incube

    If plant care has never been your thing: The Bios Incube is designed with a built-in watering system that can sustain your tree for up to three weeks at a time. A sensor, placed on top of the soil, will also monitor the amount of fertilizer present and ensure the plant thrives. This bio-urn can also be brought inside the home, if you choose.


  • Capsula Mundi

    Capsula Mundi

    Based in Italy, Capsula Mundi created these beautiful egg-shaped pods that hold the body in a fetal position. The pods are then lowered into the ground and planted with a tree of your choosing.

  • The Greenman Casket

    The Greenman Casket

    This company makes handcrafted caskets for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. The formaldehyde-free woods are biodegradable, leaving minimal environmental impact.

  • Passages International

    Passages International

    Willow, seagrass, and bamboo are unconventional casket materials, but these are elegant and handcrafted by artisans from rural communities.


  • Coeio


    The brain child of MIT graduate Jae Rhim Lee and fashion designer Daniel Silverstein, the Infinity Burial Shroud has a built-in bio-mix of mushrooms and microorganisms that aids in decomposition and is said to transform your body into vital nutrients for the earth.

  • The Pacific Sea Shroud

    The Pacific Sea Shroud

    For those who know they belong at sea: The Pacific Sea Shroud is a biodegradable cotton canvas that acts as a full-body sea shroud burial and promises to bring no harm to marine life.


  • And Vinyly

    And Vinyly

    The concept of pressing ashes into a vinyl records may sound kitschy at first, but if you need convincing, check out Hearing Madge, a documentary in which a son preserves the last recordings of his mother’s voice in a vinyl record. With Jason Leach’s UK-based company And Vinyly, you make the soundtrack of your life (friends’ voices, a partner’s laugh, your favorite songs) and even design the album cover.