New Options for Outdoor Memorials

Funeral Industry News October 19, 2020
Memorial Forest
Diana Ionescu

Diana is a writer and urbanist based in Los Angeles. Her interests include modern grief rituals, innovative disposition methods, and navigating death and mourning in an increasingly secular society.


New Options for Outdoor Memorials

Two new death care options are making it easier for families to memorialize their loved ones in the great outdoors.

Locating scattered ashes

Scattering ashes outdoors is a popular tradition and a meaningful way to honor a loved one in a place close to their heart. But after the remains have been scattered, family and friends usually have no way to visit a specific location or connect to their lost loved one via a physical memorial. Now, a new app promises an easier way to track and locate the places where the ashes of loved ones were scattered and provide a tangible connection to their final resting place.

The app, called Ecorial, records data about the memorial event including GPS coordinates, date, and time, to let friends and loved ones find the location and visit, just as they would a physical gravesite.

The app was created by Biolife LLC, an urn and planting system developer specializing in innovative, eco-friendly burial products. CEO Mark Brewer calls Ecorial “the first and only … secure databank of people who are memorialized outdoors,” filling a long-standing gap in the funeral market. The company, which can also help you plan for a memorial tree or ash scattering, seeks to offer innovative ways to honor loved ones and share memorial sites with family and friends from around the world, even when they can’t attend the memorial event.

With social distancing requirements still in place around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform may have launched at just the right time. Available on Apple and Google mobile and web platforms, the Ecorial app lets anyone track their loved one’s scattering ground or natural burial site, create digital memorials, and share the location with their family and friends.

A new conservation forest

Better Place Forests, builder of the U.S.’s first conservation memorial forest, just opened its fourth facility in Scandia, Minnesota. The cemetery alternative lets conservation-minded people use their final wish to preserve a piece of wilderness in perpetuity. A conservation forest, a combination of natural burial and environmental preservation, lets people committed to environmental conservation to reserve a burial plot in a space that has been set aside as a nature preserve. All residents of conservation burial grounds must agree to a natural burial free of chemical embalming and non-natural grave markers.

Located in the scenic St. Croix River Valley, this newest conservation forest spans 112 acres on the shores of Big Marine Lake. This alternative to traditional cemeteries lets clients who choose cremation place their ashes at the roots of a tree in a forest that will be protected forever. Family and friends can visit their loved one and identify their tree using the memorial markers placed by Better Place. The newest location, 45 minutes away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, provides an accessible yet isolated retreat for loved ones to visit their deceased relatives. The forest was chosen for its convenient location as well as for the diversity of flora and fauna that will benefit from the protection afforded by the conservation status of the memorial grove.

The St. Croix Better Forests site received support from the local community and City Council. Scandia Mayor Christine Maefsky praised the new burial ground, citing the forest’s potential for preserving local biodiversity and providing a “natural and beautiful way” to commemorate loved ones and continue one’s commitment to environmental conservation after death.

Since the new conservation forest was announced, over 3,000 people have expressed interest in reserving a spot. The forest is now offering virtual tours and accepting reservations. As more people opt for natural burials and large funerals continue to be restricted by COVID-19, conservation forests offer an attractive option for people who want to make a meaningful last bequest to Mother Nature and provide their loved ones with a tranquil and beautiful place to mourn.