The tree funeral in China and America

tree funeralWhat is a tree burial, and how do you plan a tree funeral?

Green burial, of course, isn’t confined to the West, and America isn’t the only superpower with environmental concerns. Turns out China needs green burial too. With land for cemeteries at a premium, and with traditional burial costs rising, some Chinese are complaining they can’t afford to die. One interesting and greenish solution is the so-called “tree funeral.”

In a tree funeral, a body is first cremated, then placed in a readily biodegradable urn. (As with any cremation, there may be a funeral service in the home, church, or funeral parlor prior to the incineration.) Instead of keeping the ashes at home permanently, the urn is then taken to a special section of a cemetery set aside to “be a tree.” The urn is placed in a shallow hole under the roots of a tree. Within a year, the ashes become part of the soil. The tree lives, and the wheel of life turns on. As a woman from Shanxi province in northern China says, tree burial, for her brother, is like a continuation of his life.

It should be noted that cremation is part of the tree burial. Cremation has a mixed record when it comes to green burial. On the one hand, it has a smaller land footprint and sends fewer precious resources into the ground. It’s also generally cheaper than a full-scale traditional burial. On the other hand, incineration uses lots of fossil fuel energy.

If you are interested in a tree funeral in the neighborhood of Piedmont Pine Coffins, check out a company called EcoEternity Forest. They have six tree funeral sites from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The closest is in Orange County, just west of Chapel Hill, NC. For forward thinking families, you can choose a tree and, within that tree, over years of tree funeral after tree funeral, be reunited with your loved ones. What an awesome thought.

Quiet as it’s kept, and you didn’t hear it from me, but I would venture to say that tree burials are a pathway some families choose to avoid using a cemetery altogether. Good trees are in woods and backyards all around us, and too poor to die is too much of a burden.