Tree Pod Burials: A Life After Death

Large oak tree in a meadow with the sun shining through its branches

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing Oak?”

The oak tree said, “I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You’ll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me.

Until today, I wasn’t sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you
I’m stronger than I ever knew.”
– Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.

Humble Beginnings

For centuries, trees have been associated with unmovable strength, wisdom, power, protection, and most recently, a new way to be buried and honored after death. Tree pod burials are a very straightforward concept which involve putting human remains into biodegradable pods rather than traditional caskets.

These urns are meant to break down over time allowing the encapsulated remains to be broken down into the soil and become fertilizer which results in the tree growing in place of a headstone. As of now, it is most common for tree pod burials to be for cremated remains but have the potential for the entire body to be encapsulated as well. If a body is placed in a capsule, it cannot be embalmed or otherwise prepared and will be placed in the fetal position within the pod.

Hands holding a tree sprout

The tree pod burial concept was introduced in 2016 by two Italian designers, Francesco D’Angelo and Adriano Del Ferro. Their burial system, known as Capsula Mundi which is “world’s capsule” in Latin, consisted of human remains, typically cremated, wrapped in a natural fiber cloth that are then stored in an eco-friendly, egg-shaped pod.

Once the pod is implanted in the ground, a tree is planted directly above it, as time passes the egg will break down and the remains will undergo the process of decay. During the decaying process, nutrients and microbes from the remains will nourish the tree as it disintegrates, aiding extra aid allowing for the tree to grow and thrive.

Growing Green with Interest

As people start gravitating towards more green burial options and past traditional funeral services, we notice tree pod burials popping up more frequently. With worldwide issues stemming from climate change and individuals wanting to be more eco-conscious, traditional funerals that put nonbiodegradable materials such as hardwood, steel and toxic embalming chemicals into the earth are slowly losing traction and interest quickly as more alternatives make themselves available.

Hands holding potted seedling

Beyond the need to be eco-friendly, tree pod burials are also significantly cheaper than traditional funeral services. Traditional services can cost up to $12,000 while tree pod burials can range from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on price of the urn and cremation services in your state. Typically, the biodegradable urn costs $457 but there are cheaper alternatives available as well. You will also need to plan out the cost of a tree but typically a sapling can cost around $55 but it truly depends on the tree chosen.

Other costs will lay in where exactly you want to plant your tree. If you have land or special permission to plant, you can save serious money on burial plots. If you go this route, be sure to check local laws because not every jurisdiction allows for human remains to be buried on private property. On the other hand, if you decide on a conservation burial land, burial fees are typically required to acquire land and protect the tree, these fees can be anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the land.

While initially, burial pods seem costly, they are still significantly cheaper than traditional funerals offering budgetary relief, a smaller environmental impact while the tree will continually contribute by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, and wildlife support for years to come.

Choosing A New Life

While tree pod burials are still relatively new and can be off-putting to those who have not considered nontraditional burial practices, the popularity of creating a life after death has proven enticing enough to create a real need for it in the funeral industry. Tree pod burials are the answer for individuals who want to be eco-conscious with their after-life plans and ease the financial, environmental, and emotional burden that are typically associated with funerals. If you or a loved one is looking into tree pod burials, be sure to follow all state or jurisdiction guidelines and regulations before beginning the process.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.