A Memory Forest Full of Hope and New Life


When Janis’ father, Barry, had cancer, he tried chemo, radiation, and ayahuasca, a plant native to Peru that is used in traditional healing ceremonies. He is an arborist by trade, and a hippie by nature. Prior to his cancer, he was strong and active, and well into middle age, you could find him climbing up a tree and spending his time in a tree house he built for Janis when she was a child.

Barry beat the odds, and overcame his cancer, but like most people in similar situations, it made him think long and hard about his mortality. To Barry, his brush with death was a wake-up call that it was time to plan. As an environmentally conscious tree-lover, Barry knew he didn’t want to spend eternity in a coffin made of wood from a dead tree. He weighed his options, to find that one day, there was the possibility that he could live on as and continue to grow in nature as one of his favorite things: a tree.

Conventional Burial and the Environment

Around half of Americans are buried after they die, and many environmentally conscious people, such as Barry in our example, are looking for greener options. Why? Burial in the U.S. takes a lot of resources. Each year, more than 30 million board feet of wood, 1.6 million tons of concrete, 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid, and 90,000 tons of steel are used for underground burials in the United States alone. Cremation, while less resource intensive, uses about 28 gallons of fuel and releases about 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

When it comes to the wood for a coffin, it takes 10 to 40 years for a tree to grow. It is then cut down and made into a coffin that only serves a purpose for 2 or 3 days. It was this line of thinking that sparked the perfect solution: a way to save one tree and plant another.

The Capsula Mundi Project

Founded in Italy, the Capsula Mundi project involves organic burial pods that turn loved ones into trees. Fueled by their love of trees, founders Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel created an organic, biodegradable burial pod that literally turns a person’s remains into nutrients for a beautiful tree growing directly up above.

How do they work? The body is first encapsulated into a fetal position in order to fit inside of the burial pod, which looks like an earthy piece of art, but really is a biodegradable “casket.” Once the burial pod is buried deep underground, a tree seed or a young tree is placed directly above, and from one source of life sparks another.

The idea behind the project was that instead of visiting a depressing cemetery, visitors can instead enter a beautiful memory forest full of hope and the promise of new life. Loved ones would care for the tree, seeking comfort beneath its shade, which is far more than you can expect from a tombstone.

The company will offer an assortment of different trees clients can choose from, enabling clients to pick their favorite tree while they are still alive. The idea is that the tree is chosen when the person is alive, and relatives and friends look after it when death occurs.

Unfortunately, these burial pods are only a concept for now, as it is against Italian Law to bury someone in this manner. The eco-friendly forces behind Capsula Mundi are currently working to change legislation and spread the word to others, turning their amazing burial ritual into a reality.

Poetree: Another Green Option for Those Who Prefer Cremation

French designer Margaux Ruyant created Poetree, a funeral urn that allows loved ones to plant a tree with a loved one’s ashes, while also providing a simple but elegant monument.

Poetree is made out of a ceramic ring with the deceased’s details, plus a cork container and stopper. Relatives can place the deceased’s ashes in the urn and take it home, along with a boxwood tree sapling in a biodegradable pot. When they are ready, the cork stopper is removed, soil can be poured inside the urn, and the small tree may be planted in the ashes.

After giving the boxwood tree some time to grow, the urn can then be planted outside, where the cork container can biodegrade, leaving only the ceramic ring as a marker and a living, growing tree to commemorate those who have passed on.

Green Burial in the United States

For environmentally-conscious people, even if you cannot or do not want to be planted as a tree, you can still be buried in a green way. In fact, in an AARP online poll, 45% of participants indicated they would choose green burial over traditional burial or cremation, when given the choice. And, in the U.S., there are currently 28 green or hybrid cemeteries in 19 states.

Green Burial uses liquid nitrogen to bring the body to a eco-friendly state. The body is frozen and is then slightly vibrated which turns it into a powder and then the powder is dried. The powder can then be placed in a corn or potato starch coffin and buried. This option reduces the impact on water, air and soil compared to the traditional burial or cremation.

The same state laws that govern traditional cemeteries apply to green cemeteries, but as with any death-related purchases, you should select your provider with care. Learn more about Green Burials at http://www.greenburials.org.

Make Your Burial Desires Known While You Still Can

What if you want your body or your ashes to be planted with seeds to grow a new tree, or what if you want a green burial? How would your loved ones know if you haven’t indicated your wishes in your Advance Medical Directive?

Our proprietary 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM) enables you to set forth your preferences with regard to organ donation, funeral arrangements, and disposition of remains. The document also accomplishes several essential things. In your 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM), you can appoint an agent and give that person the power to consent to medical and health care decisions on your behalf. This person can decide whether to withhold or withdraw a specific medical treatment or course of treatment when you are incapable of making or communicating an informed decision yourself. Our 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM) also contains a proprietary Long-Term Care Directive(TM) that allows you to address numerous issues that arise if and when long-term care is needed.  You can also indicate your wishes concerning the use of artificial or extraordinary measures to prolong your life in the event of a terminal illness or injury.

If you have not done Incapacity Planning (including our 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM) and Financial Power of Attorney), Estate Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning, or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please contact usto schedule your appointment for our no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Estate Planning: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Estate Planning: 540-479-1435
Rockville Estate Planning: 301-519-8041
DC Estate Planning: 202-587-2797

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