• Outdoors Outdoors

These 'tree burials' may change the cemeteries of the future: 'Why be buried in a box when you could become a forest?'

"In this way, your biology literally becomes the tree."

Tree burial

Photo Credit: iStock

Transcend and its founder Matthew Kochmann ask the question: Why be burned or buried in a box when you could become a forest? 

By pre-ordering a Tree Burial, the company claims, "your positive impact on future generations starts now." 

The problem with traditional burial practices

Both conventional burials and cremations carry significant environmental impacts. Conventional burials in cemeteries can leach toxic pollutants into the Earth and our groundwater. Plus, all that green space requires a whole lot of maintenance, which entails even more impact. 

Cremation, on the other hand, uses much more energy in the short term and releases more planet-warming carbon pollution. The practice, popular throughout the world and now dominant in the U.S., also pollutes the air with toxic gases, although new technology aims to clean up this pollution.

Transcend hopes to bypass these problems with an old solution: natural burials, or Tree Burials, as they are branding them. 

How does a Tree Burial work?

The burial process works as follows. First, the body is readied for burial and wrapped in 100% organic biodegradable flax linen that breaks down at the pace of nature. 

Then, the body is lowered onto a bed of locally upcycled wood chips that help maintain proper oxygen levels in the soil, creating the perfect environment for the body to naturally decompose.

A blend of fungi, soil, and wood chips is then spread on top of the linen-wrapped body to ensure the tree is able to derive essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus directly from it.

A young tree of your choice, which Transcend says is "hand-selected for longevity and beauty," is then planted atop the site of the burial. The tree's roots are able to connect with the fungi, allowing the body's nutrients to directly feed the tree and help it grow. 

"In this way, your biology literally becomes the tree," the company's website states. 

Poetically, the fungi used in the burial process would connect your tree to any other Tree Burial in the area, meaning if you and your loved ones are planted near each other, you will remain connected to them and help support an entire ecosystem of life together forever.

The future of Tree Burials

Transcend makes use of global tree planting efforts to make each burial carbon negative, which is where more carbon pollution is sucked out of the sky than is released. 

The company has partnered with One Tree Planted, an award-winning nonprofit that understands how important it is to plant native trees and monitor their growth for a successful reforestation project.

Customers will have the choice of seven native tree species for their Grove, or Tree Burial site, while 1,000 other saplings will be planted globally in their honor once their Grove is reserved

The company is planning to grow Transcend forests made up of these Groves. Eventually, there may be thousands of acres of Groves near large cities around the world. 

Each forest will feature a visitor center, walking paths, burial site markers, and GPS guidance. After a young tree is planted over the body, loved ones will be able to visit that specific tree for generations, as those laid to rest literally become part of the forest. 

Kochmann hopes to help people be less afraid of death by emphasizing the good we can do even after we're gone.

 "I envision a world where our decisions today can create an immediate impact that continues on well after our last breath," he says. 

More solutions are needed

Tree planting isn't the easy fix to all of our environmental woes, however. When not done thoughtfully, tree planting missions can actually reduce the biodiversity and resiliency of an area. 

What's more, scientists have found that there's not enough land on Earth to reasonably cool down our overheating planet with tree planting alone. We'll need big reductions in our reliance on dirty energy sources like fossil fuels no matter what. 

Still, with Transcend, you can help the environment while saving a little green as well. 

Once reservations open spring of 2023, a Grove will set you back about $8,500, which is less than the average conventional funeral costs. 

Until then, interested parties can give $100 to become a founding member and lock in the company's spring price, paid in installments. 
Transcend also offers pet burial kits along with a more expensive, full-service option for animals up to 90 pounds.

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