The funeral industry has come under fire over the past few years in South Africa with news of corruption, organ trade on the black market and  illegal burials to name but a few incidents.

Although these issues are enough to already alarm it only brings to light a fraction of the problems that the industry faces, problems which many South Africans are not aware of until they are faced with the passing of a loved one.

The reality is that many of the problems that need to be addressed with urgency, require South Africans to commit to a change in their outlook and beliefs in order to solve the problems. The most prevalent issue is that of burial space which is rapidly running out.

The subject has raised a lot of controversy across the country as local governments try and find a reasonable and respectful solution. The majority of suggestions made, like that of reusing old graves have been met with push back from communities, creating a national outcry to find alternatives that can be used. Finding a respectful and realistic method of laying loved ones to rest that is suitable for the majority of South Africans is no easy task, cultural needs and beliefs need to be taken into account, as well as the longevity of any solution and its long term environmental impact.

Local government heads stand at the forefront of finding a sustainable solution while they attempt to educate local communities on alternatives like cremation, in hopes of bring an end to what could  potentially cause catastrophic problems for cities across South Africa if left unsolved, which could in turn cause health risks and major environmental issues.

Biotree Urns

Enter, a South African company that is changing the way South Africans view loss by celebrating the lives of those who have passed in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way. was founded in late 2015 with a very specific ideology in mind, create a sustainable solution for laying a loved one to rest. This shaped the core of a company that wants to change the outlook of our traditions from that of graves to those of forests.

Their flagship product, The Biotree Urn, is a biodegradable cremation urn that holds a loved ones ashes. The urn is then planted and returns their ashes to nature as it grows into a tree. The concept of growing a tree from the ashes of loved one that gives back to nature, is undoubtedly a better solution than creating vast unusable space for cemeteries, but the company didn't stop there, they wanted to offer South Africans a more dignified method of remembrance and one that disposes of the dated methods still used today.

Each Biotree Urn comes with a memorial tag, which has a unique code on it, once the code is registered on their website a person can geotag the location of their Biotree Urn and write a memorial for the loved one that now rests at its roots. The tags are also sold separately which allows families who have buried or scattered loved ones to create an Online memorial.

This addresses an issue a lot of families face, as not everyone has the means or time to visit the graves or scattering locations of a loved one, however, with a Biotree memorial tag families and individuals can take a moment from anywhere in the world to pay their respects by simply visiting their loved ones memorial Online. The Biotree Urns also take into consideration other dated practices like the use of plastic bags which are normally used by crematoriums to return the ashes of a loved one. These are replaced in the Biotree Urn with a beautiful white fabric bag, which is compostable and environmentally friendly.

The urn also includes 3 indigenous tree seeds to chose from, however, one is not limited to this selection and can use other seed species or seedlings if they wish.

Local charities and organisations are also supported with every unit the company sells. donates a tree to be planted by Greenpop in aid of reforestation projects for every Biotree Urn for humans they sell, they also include a memorial bracelet made by the Bead Coalition which is an organisation that helps create work for
woman in rural areas.

Their Biotree Urn for animals is no exception either, for every animal urn the company sells a portion is donated to Guide Dogs S.A to help sponsor a working dog for someone with a disability. The urn also includes a Rhino Force bracelet as a memorial bracelet, the proceeds of which goes towards Rhino conservation.

Hands holding a leaf

As we face issues of dilapidating cemeteries, the upliftment and reusing of old graves and memorial walls being taken down as cemeteries are closed, the Biotree Urn brings a much needed alternative to the industry, in a well thought out and dignified manner. The company has made great strides since its inception and have been met with enthusiasm. As South Africans it is important to consider the problems we are faced with and how  they are linked to the dated practices we use.

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