How We Deal with Ashes

How we deal with ashes at Granville’s Wood has always been the same, but has recently become a ‘hot topic’. We have always been at the forefront of environmentally positive practice, and this is no different. From our experiences and then research, we discovered a number of problems. How we deal with ashes is now an essential part of our restoration of the woodland.

What are ashes?

In 2021, 79% of all deaths in England ended with cremation – creating 1.4m kilos of remains. If we were to include pets too, the figures could double. Cremated remains are not ash, they are sterilised bone, more like fossils. When we think of them in this more honest, but less pleasant way, their impact on the soil, water or plants and wildlife seems so obvious.

Why are they a problem?

  • The toxicity within cremated remains mainly arises from their very high pH and extremely high levels of sodium (Na).
  • When cremated remains come into contact with water the negative processes are even worse. 
  • Cremation ashes contaminate areas beyond where they are placed – imagine a drop of water on tissue and how it spreads…
  • Cremated remains don’t degrade and become part of the soil, they stay in the ground for many decades, continuing to contaminate the surrounding area.

So what do we do?

At Woodland Burial Company, after seeing the research and product from US company Let Your Love Grow, we started using the blended soil (RTN Soil). Now we use it for every burial or interment at Granville’s Wood. We were so impressed with the comprehensive, positive, impact on this problem that our parent company went on to establish Living Memorial, so people could buy it to use at home (or anywhere!).

Using this specialist blended soil means we can guarantee the health of the woodland soil, and any memorial plantings that people make as well.

Why is it a hot topic now?

We have been talking about how we deal with ashes more lately, as we want people to know. While we have things under control at Granville’s Wood, sharing our knowledge can help other burial sites, memorial gardens and those taking ashes home to make more informed decisions.

When we hear of families who have planted a tree, and that tree later dies, it’s painful. Preventing that second bereavement, and the high emotions of additional loss, is an important part of our mission.

If you would like to read more about the scientific research, soil expert Sherry Yarkosky describes the problem here.