Across the United States, a conservation group called Better Place Forests is buying small patches of wooded land from private owners.
With the intention of providing the roots, trunk and branches of a tree as the final resting place of a loved one, the group also ensures that, by law, the forest will remain preserved forever.
They own and maintain “memorial forest reserves” in Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Minnesota and soon in Illinois. These reserves feature traditional stands of sugar maples, California redwoods, colonies of quaking aspen, views of the Pacific or Twin Lakes, and all the trees are up for grabs for a few thousand dollars.
“There is a time when you choose your tree, and it is unlike anything you have expected,” says Sandy Gibson, CEO of Forests in better places. “It’s this moment how you choose it, and you’re looking around you and you realize this is what forever seems like.”
“This is where you are going to be, and it is a beautiful image: you are in a beautiful place, you can hear the wind blowing through the trees and it is something that we have heard from all our clients after choosing their tree is that feeling of peace, to know what the end of the trip is like ”, he adds.
Each year, the funeral industry consumes 20 million feet of hardwood, 64,500 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete, and 5 million gallons of embalming chemicals.
“One of the most popular reasons for choosing cremation is the idea that [people] they want to take up less space, also to reduce the load on the Earth, ”says Gibson. “The environmental aspect of what we do is incredibly important to our customers.”
A healthy alternative
As the cost of traditional funeral services with caskets and cemeteries continues to rise more and more in the US, is estimated that 80% of the Baby Boomer generation will opt for cremation.
“If I wanted a 10-20 person family plot anywhere near a major city, I would be incredibly surprised if I could find it for less than $ 200,000,” says Sandy, adding that despite the shift toward cremation, Americans don’t they have lost the desire for a place or ritual with their families.
“Our customers are drawn to Better Place Forests because they love the idea of being in nature and leaving a legacy of nature. For those who are very religious, for them nature is the place where they feel closest to God ”.
The choice of cremation and the subsequent scattering ceremony of the ashes frees the bereaved from the limitations of the traditional funeral service, which is often planned without much time and under the pressure of pain.
But in a fun way, that freedom creates a significant complication for some, in the sense that what is perceived as a very important detail in one’s life story, his funeral, has to be imagined from within a realm. much greater possibilities. This, Sandy said, can create a kind of funeral writer’s block, which Better Place Forests helps people, especially those who care about the environment, overcome.
“Part of this is this legacy of conservation; knowing that you contributed to the protection of a beautiful forest and then it is protected for future generations by something you did. When you walk through these forests is when it makes sense; we choose properties that are incredibly beautiful, trying to find properties that are iconic for each region. “
“Our costs come from buying forests and protecting them forever,” Sandy says in response to how she manages to lower the cost of a traditional funeral.
While legal fees absorb most of the cost, some of the expense also includes customizable services, whether in the interior or in the woods. Each tree can host various ash-scattering ceremonies, and the cremation techniques employed ensure that the ashes are optimally and quickly converted into nutrients, fusing spirit and earth for eternity.
You could say that Americans are uniquely prepared for this kind of internment, as our connection to nature, particularly our forests, changed the world. In 1872, we became the first nation to create a national park, and by 1906, we had created another five.
In the 19th century, Canada and the United States attracted all kinds of Europeans to join the lumber industry, and the vast forests containing magnificent trees quickly became iconic images of the New World.
There was the era of the Mountain Man, the Gold Rush, the conservation movement sparked by Field and Stream Magazine, the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, all cultural epochs centered on extraordinary American landscapes, while throughout the 20th century our commitment to protecting forests may have surpassed that of any other nation.
“One of the wonders of this work is that we can go all over the United States and see what different forests and landscapes look like everywhere, and they are very unique, and you see why people are connected to their forests,” says Sandy. .
“The surprising thing is that each region has its iconic tree. In Arizona, people love poplars. It is something magical; The idea that that grove of poplars could be alive for 8,000 years and still sprout new trees over time is an amazing thing to think about. On the east coast they are chestnuts ”.
“There is a new forest that we will announce soon where we can plant some giant redwoods,” he adds excitedly. “How cool is it to be part of a regional redwood reforestation?”
Environmentalists of all stripes, from climate activists to permaculture farmers, often talk about having a better relationship with nature. Our physical relationship with nature is very one-sided, but perhaps changing our attitudes towards it could begin with our eternal location, that is, born of the desire to give back, and not to be stubbornly housed in a concrete burial vault within a place. chemically treated. coffin.
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