Courtesy of TheCorvalisAdvocate.com | By Laine Aswad |Originally Posted 01.24.2020 | Posted 03.18.2020

Even in death, there is much to be decided. Oregon offers many different alternatives to a traditional burial — collectively referred to as natural burials. This can be anything from bio-urns to burials at sea. Choosing a natural burial often saves money, while offering a more sustainable way to honor and remember those who have passed away.

While Corvallis offers only traditional burials, there are many places close by that feature natural burial services.

Green Burials
Natural or green burials are designed to give back to the earth. While definitions and standards vary, biodegradable caskets are commonly used, which negate the use of embalming fluid, which can be toxic, and concrete or steel vaults. Natural burials vary in price, depending on the materials involved, however studies show that they often cost roughly half of what conventional burials cost.

The Natural Burial Company based out of Eugene was founded in 2004 by former organic grocer Cynthia Beal.

According to Beal, “The Natural Burial Company began as a question: what would happen if we all buried ourselves naturally, and put our bodies back where we got them — from the soil, from the Earth itself? What would happen if we just ‘put our stuff back’?”

Buried at Sea
Ashes on the Sea provides burial at sea services in Depot Bay. Options range from shore viewings to full body burials and at-sea memorials. Perhaps the most memorable is the Living Reef option, which transforms the ashes of the deceased into an artificial reef for marine life.

“Skilled craftsmen use crushed sea shells, sand, and ocean friendly concrete to cast each unique reef memorial,” explains Ashes on the Sea. “Professional mariners transport the reef memorial by boat to one of three permitted deployment locations. Once a reef memorial has been installed onto the sea floor, a beautiful and natural transformation occurs. After a short time, the reef becomes colonized and blooms with abundance of life.”

Reef memorials grow over time, ensuring that our next generation of species lives on a healthier planet. The exact GPS location of each reef is also documented and provided to loved ones.

From Ash to Tree
Turning ashes into trees is an easy and poignant way to memorialize your loved one — providing new life to something that will last for years. EterniTrees out of Lake Oswego supplies the seeds for the tree that you select, and sends a biodegradable urn straight to your door. The urn’s upper chamber, or lid, contains a unique medium that aids in the release of beneficial plant nutrients found in cremated ashes.

EterniTrees states that “by themselves, ashes are harmful to [the] plants’ health and well-being; however, by planting this biodegradable urn… you cultivate a mixture that nourishes and sustains your memorial tree.”

You can plant the tree somewhere special — your backyard or, with permission, a local park — making a memorial site you can visit whenever and wherever you choose.

A Greener Alternative to Cremation
Cremation rates have risen since the 1980s from 10 percent to over 40 percent. According to Becky Little writing for National Geographic, “The average U.S. cremation…has the same emissions as about two tanks of gas in an average car.”

Alternatively, Resomation, or alkaline hydrolysis, is a high-temperature water and chemical treatment that dissolves remains. The body is put into a capsule chamber which is filled with water and potassium hydroxide — a highly alkaline substance which dissolves the body. The bones are then ground down into a powder to be returned to the family. The water containing the remains is funneled into municipal water treatment facilities to be returned to the hydrological cycle.

So far, alkaline hydrolysis has been approved for commercial use in Florida, Minnesota, Maryland, Oregon, Kansas, Colorado, and Maine — giving residents of these states the option for a cleaner way to cremate.

Alkaline Hydrolysis, also known as aqua cremation, is available in Portland through First Call Mortuary Services, and remains can be shipped to anywhere in the world.

Buried in Space
A more distant option comes from Celestis Memorial Services in Houston, Texas, which provides deep space burials. Celestis takes a portion of the cremated remains into an earth and lunar orbit on a quarterly basis.

Celestis offers, “A memorial service that will reach into the endless universe, with the same, unparalleled tribute engaged by NASA, astronauts, celebrities, and people around the world.”

Being on the expensive side, these burials start at around $2,500.

Whatever you or your loved chooses to do with their remains, planning for the inevitable future is important. Why keep our bodies buried in boxes when there are more meaningful and sustainable ways of disposal?

By Laine Aswad