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Minnesota company offers unique, eco-friendly option for burial


By David Schuman

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A unique option for the afterlife is helping give back to the environment.

Families are spreading their loved ones’ ashes in Washington County’s St. Croix Valley Forest to be closer to nature.

Better Place Forests offers the alternative to a traditional cemetery and works to preserve the 112 acres as well.

“They can purchase a tree and have their loved ones or their own ashes placed at the base of the tree,” said Tori Nonnemacher, Better Place Forests’ general manager.

Joni Schramm from Elk River discovered Better Place a year after her husband, Scott, died.

“I’m completely and totally comfortable keeping his ashes in the house, but that’s not what we talked about,” she said. “The first time I stepped foot on these grounds, I felt an overwhelming peace.”

Schramm chose a maple, and Scott’s ashes were combined with the soil to create a nutrient for the forest.

Hundreds of people have chosen trees in the forest to be their eternal homes.

Nonnemacher says cremation in general is gaining in popularity.

“One reason is because of the environmental impact,” she said. “Another is the cost efficiency of it, so you’re seeing more and more people going that route.”

Buying a tree starts at around $6,000, and multiple family members can be spread there.

Each time someone buys a tree, Better Place plants dozens of new trees in areas affected by deforestation and forest fires.

“It’s such a beautiful option for families that are choosing cremation to have something that connects you to nature,” Nonnemacher said.

Schramm has visited her husband five times since his memorial service in the forest in September.

“We are looking forward to the day that we can bring visitors out here and sit and remember and tell good stories,” she said. “People need to be told about this place.”

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Article Topic Follows: Environment

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