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Our Top Five Favourite Urns From A Sustainability Perspective

Why Sustainability in Urn Design Matters 

Each person on this planet generates waste. This is a reality that no one can escape. But what if we said that a person’s last act on earth, what they depart us in, can be sustainable? 

 

The number of cremations has surpassed the number of burials in both the UK and the US. Cremation is largely more sustainable than burials since there is no embalming and large caskets (direct cremation is even more sustainable than burials). 

 

There is also growing concern for measuring and reducing one’s carbon footprint. This means that more and more consumers are buying and purchasing from companies that are sustainable. In fact, 4 out of 5 people in a recent survey have said that when given the choice, they will choose a product that is more sustainable

 

In this article, we explore our top five favourite sustainable urns and why they matter to us. 

 

1. Do It Yourself (DIY) Urn

We will start with our favourite sustainable urn, which is the DIY urn. Making a homemade urn doesn’t just mean saving on resources, but it also allows for families to create a more personalised and special urn for their loved one’s ashes. According to the Cost of Dying report, more people want to give their loved one a more personal and unique sending off. A great way to do this is through crafting and creating the urn yourself. 

 

You can make a DIY urn from items from around the house or your loved one’s home. Some of these items include: 

 

  • Your loved one’s jewellery box 
  • A beloved toolbox that was once handy to your loved one
  • Try hollowing out a favourite book 
  • Use a stuffed animal 

 

The wonderful aspect of a DIY urn is that you can construct it out of anything. 

 

2. The Living Urn

This urn fulfills the true meaning of a circular economy. After the cremation has taken place, the ashes are then placed into these beautiful patented urns. The urn then transforms into a tree, which can symbolise a loved one continuing to grow and thrive, even after they are gone. 

 

3. Biodegradable or “Simple” Urn 

A biodegradable or simple urn is a sustainable and unobtrusive container for the ashes. This can be placed anywhere in the home, perhaps on a shelf or on the mantle. Our Care Team drivers come personally to you to deliver the simple urn and give you the cremation certificate and certificate of reforestation. At Neo, all of our clients receive a simple biodegradable urn

 

In fact, did you know that the urn that you receive from the crematorium is often biodegradable themselves? Some crematoria in the UK provide simple box urns that can also withstand time if you are still thinking about what to do with your loved one’s ashes. 

 

You will want to double check with the crematoria as some will actually come in plastic scattering tubes instead. 

 

4. Urns Made From All Natural Materials 

If you are wanting to deposit your loved one’s ashes into the sea, then purchasing an urn made from salt or sand will easily come apart in the sea and is completely sustainable. These materials remain rock solid, but once they enter water they begin to break apart, slowly releasing the ashes into the sea. 

 

Ceramic urns, which are constructed from clay, fall into this category and are one of our favourite kinds of urns. They can look very classy and beautiful when done well. A ceramic urn in your home may also steal the spotlight and become a centre piece, adding to your home’s interior design. Support a local artist and search “donut vase” on Etsy to find beautiful ceramic vases that can double as an urn.

 

Keep in mind that different countries vary in terms of laws regarding scattering ashes at sea, be sure to check this in the country in which you reside. 

 

5. Biodegradable Urns that Steer Away From Tradition

The most interesting urn that we have found under this umbrella is the Capsula Mundi urn designed by Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel. The body of the deceased is placed inside an egg-shaped pod of soil in the fetal position. A tree is then chosen either by the family or by the deceased before they had died to be planted on top of the pod. 

 

 

The ethos behind the urn lies the sentiment that humans have veered far away from nature. The urn plays on the reality (or not)  that humans will inevitably become extinct. 

 

What are the most popular materials for urns?

Sustainable urns can be made from an array of materials. The most popular materials are: 

 

  • Sand
  • Tree bark or wood
  • Recycled or reworked paper and material
  • Recyclable biodegradable cardboard 
  • Soil 
  • Compost  

 

Will My Biodegradable Urn Fall Apart on the Shelf?

One question we get frequently asked is if a biodegradable urn will disintegrate if left alone for a long period of time. The answer is: a biodegradable urn can last many years on your shelf or mantle without anything happening. However, once the urn is submerged in water or buried underneath the soil will it start to come apart. This is largely due to moisture. 

 

But rest assured, if you store your biodegradable urn away for some time before the scattering, it will be perfectly safe.

 

Final Thoughts on Sustainable Urns

There are really numerous ways to weave sustainability in a funeral, and considering the type of urn you want plays an important role. Our favourite sustainable urn is one that families make themselves. This can be done by finding items around the home, or even making them and decorating them yourself. 

 

Having the option to give back to the earth and become a tree or plant a tree in a forest is also a sustainable way to remember your loved one. This has become one of the most popular methods of conducting a funeral given the current climate crisis. 

 

Various cultures also take this approach in creating their own funeral materials. Have a read through our blog here on interesting and insightful funeral practices to find out more.

Jenn Ulloa

Digital Operations Analyst

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