Using Tech to Find an ‘Eternal Garden’ for Cremated Remains
Originally Published on Chicago Inno
Two years ago, Chicagoan Darrell Hill was drinking coffee with his parents when his mother surprised him with a request no son is ever quite ready to hear. She and Hill’s father want to be cremated—when that time comes—but they don’t want to be placed in an urn on the shelf or sprinkled at any old cemetery.
“Scatter our ashes somewhere pretty,” Hill’s mother said.
Aside from being forced to come to terms with his parents’ mortality, Hill was presented with another challenge. How do you find “somewhere pretty” to scatter ashes? Google, he discovered, wasn’t much help.
“There’s no central online portal (for cremation services),” Hill said. “There’s no central location on the internet where I can go and find this information.”
So Hill built that portal himself.
Last year Hill launched Eternity Gardens, a platform that wants to be the go-to website for anyone looking for a final resting place for cremated remains. Users can search by state and filter by dozens of different criteria to find the perfect spot. Users can search by religion—such as Catholic, Jewish or Muslim—for a cemetery that matches the deceased’s faith. Users can also search for less traditional cremation resting places, like having ashes scattered by air, sea or other natural settings like in the mountains.
The goal, Hill says, is to bring more information and options to people who may be struggling to find a respectful and meaningful place to lay their loved ones to rest.
Eternity Gardens may sound like it’s targeting a niche user base. But the number of people opting for cremation is on the rise, and is only expected to climb further. In 2001, just 27 percent of the U.S. population chose to be cremated. In 2016, that number was more than 50 percent. And by 2035, the National Funeral Directors Association predicts that more than three quarters of the U.S. population will choose cremation.
Combine that with the aging Baby Boomer population, and Hill realized that there are poised to be millions of sons and daughters who will suddenly need to find information on where to spread their parents’ ashes, and they’ll likely turn to the internet. Eternity Gardens hopes to guide them through the next steps.
“(Baby Boomers) are at that point in their lives where, just as they have impacted so many other industries, they are beginning to impact the deathcare space,” Hill said.
Eternity Gardens charges cemeteries and other cremation scattering services a one-time fee to list on its platform, and then charges for each time Eternity Gardens directs a customer to a business. So far, the startup has just a handful of services on the platform, but Hill said he hopes to grow inventory to around 500 locations across the U.S. Eternity Gardens currently works out the the Polsky Center at the University of Chicago.
A key element of Eternity Garden’s site will revolve around unique ways for loved ones to scatter ashes, Hill explained. Adding more nature options like scatterings at sea, alongside traditional cemetery scatterings, will add variety to the platform’s offerings.
As the site continues to grow, Hill said he’ll be focused on adding more businesses to the platform, and also expand into new areas like pet cremation scattering.