When many people think about the end of their life, they are drawn to rejoining the natural world. Specifically, many people want to become a tree when they die. Trees are givers of life. They provide many benefits to the environment around them — it’s natural that people would want to learn more about how to give back in this way.
Of course, it’s not as simple as being able to die and turn into a tree. However, there are several ways to turn yourself into a tree as a body or cremated remains are incorporated into the Earth over time. Each option is different in terms of the disposition of the body after death, and each presents different options for others to remember and visit you at your tree.
Ways to become a tree when you die
There are several ways to become a tree when you die. We've highlighted some of the options you might want to consider.
Spread ashes at the base of a tree in a conservation memorial forest
You can choose to have your ashes spread at the base of a tree in one of ten memorial forests across the United States. In each forest managed by Better Place Forests, people choose an established, personal tree where their cremated ashes can be spread. Traditionally cremated ashes are accepted, and in some forests ashes from aquamation, also known as water cremation or alkaline hydrolysis, can also be used.
The ashes are mixed with local soil, which balances the mixture and enables the ashes to be incorporated into the environment. They are then spread at the base of the tree. Afterwards, wildflower seeds are spread, and some have chosen other customizations such as the release of butterflies or rehabilitated wildlife. Religious traditions or other preferences can be incorporated to make this forest memorial truly personalized.
Many people are attracted to this option because it allows them to leave an enduring legacy of conservation. The purchase of a memorial tree directly contributes to protecting forests and open spaces. In addition, each memorial tree purchase leads to the planting of reforestation saplings in areas that have been affected by fires or deforestation. This happens in partnership with the non-profit One Tree Planted and goes to projects across the U.S.
Long before you need your tree as a final resting place, you can visit, hike, and picnic in the forest — seeing your tree change through the seasons and grow over the years. Each forest is selected for its conservation value, meaning that the land is in a natural, scenic, historic, agricultural, forested, or open-space condition. Often, the properties that become conservation memorial forests are wildlife habitats that would otherwise face a threat of development or loss of these values. By choosing a memorial tree, you are actively helping to protect this land.
Place ashes in a biodegradable urn
There are options available that allow you to place cremated ashes in a biodegradable urn. The urn is made from organic materials that will decompose over time. It’s placed into a planting hole that is then filled with soil. A young tree is lowered into the urn and soil is used to fill in the area around it. The earth is then pressed down to support the structure of the urn and tree. Mulch is placed on top. With regular watering and protection from weather and animals, the young tree can grow.
Natural organic reduction
This is a process also known as human composting. The body is not embalmed, as it would be in a traditional burial. Instead, the body is placed inside an enclosure or vessel with other organic materials, and after about six to eight weeks, it becomes soil.
Once the composting process has been completed, family and loved ones may use the soil for planting, including to support a tree. Natural organic reduction results in around a cubic yard of soil, or enough to fill a truck bed.
This kind of burial may not be an option if you have undergone certain medical treatments, such as those involving radiation. This option is only available in Washington State and Colorado. Several other states are considering legalizing this end-of-life option.
Not available to purchase: a biodegradable tree pod
There have been conceptual representations of biodegradable burial pods in which a body can be placed. In theory, the pod would be buried and a tree planted on top. The body would become nutrients for the tree as it decomposes. These kinds of pods can’t be purchased yet because they’re still being developed.
What kinds of trees can you become when you die?
Become a redwood tree
Redwood trees include some of the largest and tallest trees in the world. Found along the coast of California, these mysterious and powerful trees feature huge trunks and thick bark to help them thrive for thousands of years.
Redwood memorial trees are available in:
Become an oak tree
Oaks are among the most common trees in North America. With over 500 species of oak trees, the variations on these trees are endless. Known as a symbol of strength, these trees provide nourishment for many forest animals through their leaves and acorns and protection from the elements in their massive canopy.
Oak memorial trees are available in:
Become a Douglas fir tree
These evergreen trees can live up to 500 years and are often known for their beautiful scent and were historically used by healers for many herbal remedies and treatments. Many species of animals rely on this tree for food and protection.
Douglas fir memorial trees are available in:
Become a maple tree
Maple trees provide a beautiful display of red and orange leaves in the fall. Often a common symbol of strength and endurance because of their long life, these trees are also popular due to the maple syrup that some varieties provide.
Maple memorial trees are available in:
Become an aspen tree
With their signature tall white trunks, these trees showcase the beauty of fall with yellow or red leaves that rustle in the wind. Growing to heights of over 80 feet tall, these trees grow in groves from a shared root system.
Aspen memorial trees are available in:
No matter which tree you feel the most drawn to, Better Place Forests offers many beautiful options for you or your loved one to feel connected to nature beyond your time on Earth.