This Startup Wants to Replace Cemeteries With Stunning Protected Forests

Remember last year when we told you how an Italian company had big plans to turn dead loved ones into trees?

Well, it now looks like a similar concept is hitting North America – and it’s a group of predominantly Toronto-born young professionals who are making it happen. Disrupting the cemetery experience, four young entrepreneurs hope to replace tombstones with trees.

It was a visit to his parents’ grave on his mom’s birthday last year that inspired Toronto native Sandy Gibson to want a different kind of resting place for his parents. So the tech entrepreneur decided to take action, teamed up with three other entrepreneurs, and Better Place Forests was born. Launched last week, it’s North America’s first sustainable, cremation-only forest cemetery. The idea is that peoples’ ashes are buried under trees to create living memorials and to permanently preserve some of the continent’s most beautiful natural environments.

Instead of visiting a cemetery, you’ll be able to visit your relatives in a pristine forest environment where your tree and the land around it is completely private. Families are free to attend for the spreading of the ashes, and to visit for years to come.


The company’s initial forest is set in a protected part of Northern California’s coastal forests. The idea is that, as families spread and move to different cities over time, they will have a unique place that they can visit on special occasions.

The Better Place Forest website highlights the company’s mission to protect “some of the most beautiful and iconic forests in the world.” Better Place uses proceeds from each sale to create a memorial trust for maintaining and protecting the forest forever. The company’s goal is to open forests all over the U.S. in the next five years.

Not to inspire morbid thoughts, but for those interested, the first step is to reserve a private tree within the park. Reservations can be made for a single person, a couple, or for families of various groupings. Families can choose to include their pets in the reservations.

If you like the idea, you can help bring it to Canada by showing your support here. The company is just one example of the shift away from traditional burial or cremation practices. If trees aren’t your thing, your loved ones can even be tuned into jewellery.