The Bios Urn and Spirit Tree: Dead People Can Be Green Too

Let’s face it: preparing for one’s death can be a real hassle. Between planning the estate, delegating power of attorney, and the old ‘whole vs. term’ life insurance debate, it’s nearly impossible to find time for the things that really matter. Like making sure your cremated remains will be able to propagate a tree.

At least, it was nearly impossible. Now you can help make the planet greener after you’ve kicked the bucket, and it’s all thanks to a couple of Spanish artists named Martin Azúa and Gerard Moline.

Two years ago, these gentlemen invented Bios Urn – a 100-percent biodegradable container for human ashes rendered from coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose. A tree seed is contained inside the container, which is roughly the size of a paint can. Ashes contain significant amounts of phosphorous, an element known to spur healthy plant growth. So all it takes is a couple sprinkles of Nana and Pop Pop, and that seed will expand and a healthy sapling will be growing in a matter of weeks. Once the tree reaches a certain height (typically one and a half feet, but varies by tree species), then it’s ready to be planted in the earth.

But you’re a consumer, and you like multiple choices when it comes to burial options that enable tree growth. So if the Bios Urn isn’t your cup of tea, then why not consider a Spirit Tree. This design follows the same principles as Bios Urn, but presents the results in a much simpler aesthetic. The Spirit Tree is comprised of two parts: an “organic bottom shell” that houses the ashes and a “chemically inert, weathering cover” that protects the sapling during its early stages. As soon as the roots grow strong enough, the ceramic cover is broken and the tree sprouts henceforth.

And just so we’re clear, this burial option isn’t limited to humans. Any sizable animal’s ashes contain enough phosphorous to aid at least one sapling, so your cremated household pet can also help grow a tree if you’re so inclined. In fact, one of Azúa’s earliest biodegradable urn projects involved Snowflake, an albino gorilla who spent most of his life confined to a small space within the Barcelona Zoo. When the ape passed away in 2003, he was buried in a Bios Urn.

In many cultures, a healthy tree symbolizes prosperity and eternal life. All the more reason to alter your will accordingly.