Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Could Trees Be the New Gravestones?

RedwoodSandy Gibson, the chief executive of Better Place Forests out of Silicon Valley, believes that the gravestone is the most obvious target for innovation in the funeral services industry. “We’re trying to redesign the entire end-of-life experience.” The premise: gone are traditional cemeteries, and coming in are forests that will never be developed. Instead of being buried, the person's cremated remains are mixed with fertilizers and used on a specific tree. 

People are enthralled by the environmental friendly idea, with thousands of trees already sold to still-living customers, according to Gibson, raising $12 million in venture capital. Other than the topic of dead bodies coming up often, the office is a normal San Francisco start-up, with around 45 people bustling around and frequenting the roof deck with a view of the water.

For an incredibly long-living and extremely desirable redwood tree, it could cost a customer upwards of $30,000. A more economical choice would be to buy into a community tree, starting at $970 plus cremation costs. Because it is a forest with looser rules that graveyards, pet cremains are allowed as well. And though it is a fairly low-tech operation of mixing cremains with water and dirt, no San Francisco start-up would be complete without some high-tech options. For an extra fee, customers can have a digital memorial video made. Visitors will be able to scan a placard and watch a 12-minute digital portrait of the deceased talking straight to camera about his or her life, and the customer can choose to either allow anyone to watch or just certain people.

See Nellie Bowles, Could Trees Be the New Gravestones?, New York Times, June 12, 2019.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.


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