Alternative Means of Dispersing Ashes

by M-Gillies
looking up at a grey an white checkered hot air balloon.

Scattering ashes from a hot air balloon has become popular. The whole process takes about half an hour and some hot air balloon baskets can accommodate 15 people.

With so many options available for interments, some people will opt for the less costly cremation. When the ashes are collected, they can be kept, buried or for those who wish for an alternative sendoff, they can go about dispersing the ashes in a variety of ways, which include:

Keeping Ashes:

For those who wish to keep the ashes, the standard urn isn’t the only option for storing the remains. Alternatives also include newer innovations such as custom urns, glass and diamond jewelry, paintings and pencils and many more. To help you with your decision, we have included a list of alternative options for keeping ashes. 

Urns – With a wide variety of urns to choose from, there is no need to simply limited oneself to the traditional oval-shaped urn that has been a formal staple in the funeral industry. These days, funeral homes have taken to offering families a wider selection that ranges from metal, wood, glass, ceramic, stone and plastic, and this is merely the tip of the iceberg as to what is available.

Further, these urns can also include personalization options baring plaques, engravings and painted surfaces. While they can be made to be everlasting or biodegradable, they can be custom-sized to hold the remains of either one or two people, or small enough to hold just a bit for family members.

Ashes into Glass/Jewelry – For those who wish to keep there loved one’s ashes preserved in a beautiful and artistic way, there are a series of new companies emerging that offer ashes encased in glass. Much like how glass ornaments are made, ashes into glass is down using a glass blowing technique whereby a small amount of cremated ashes are fused with molten glass, and then made into a personal memorial.

Known as memorial glass and sometimes as cremation jewelry, these creations can range from pendants, rings, cuff links, bookmarks, vases, bowls, paperweights, custom designed ornaments and much more.

Diamonds from Ash – Certified, high-quality cremation jewelry diamonds are very much real and similar to cremation glass memorials, the concept involves heat. However, unlike glass blowing, creating diamonds involves a huge amount of pressure.

Vinyl Pressed Ashes – Is music your life? Are you a diehard audiophile? If that is the case, this could be the option for you. With many companies turning to creating memorial products, one company known as And Vinyl is the only company to offer pressing the cremains into playable LP records, which in turn can hold up to 24 minutes of recordings ranging from selected songs, vocal recordings or just silence. However, if someone were so inclined, the company further offers tailored music, written and produced specifically for the person by the band The House of Fix. 

With a basic package costing roughly $4500 USD, family and friends are given up to 30 discs, each with standard RIV artwork, which includes the name, date of birth, date of death and a label.

Painted Ash Art – With so many ways of honoring and remembering our loved ones, now comes a new approach to memorializing the memory of the dearly departed with cremation paintings. How it works is these cremation keepsake prints incorporate a small amount of ash into a paint palette

Carbon Copies – Nadine Jarvis is a designer. Back in 2009, she began to make news with her thought provoking artwork using cremated remains – one of which, just so happened to be a ceramic urn suspended from a tree. She also created a bird feeder made of bird food and human ash, but her other design was the Carbon Copies pencil box.

Using the carbon from cremated remains in lieu of graphite, Jarvis has created 240 pencils out of cremated remains. The pencils are further foil stamped with the name of the person, while only one pencil can be removed at a time. It is then sharpened back into the box, causing the shavings to occupy the space of the used pencils.

What ends up happening is, over time, the box fills with pencil shavings, acting as a new ash, and transforming the box into an urn.

Bird Feeders – Created by Nadine Jarvis, these bird feeders are made from solid castings of bird food, beeswax and ash as a means of encouraging the birds to eat and naturally purge the ash in order to release the ashes over a period of time.

Through this, Jarvis addresses the conventional methods of commemorating the deceased, ultimately removing the responsibility of ash scattering by allowing external factors to decide when to lay someone to rest.

Dispersing of Ashes:

While there are those who wish to keep the ashes of their loved ones, others prefer honoring the memories of the dearly departed in different ways. These can range from simple burials to a scattering. However, there are alternative options available that can act as a means of honoring your loved one or even personalizing their sendoff to reflect the things they were passionate about.  

Burial – This is the most common next to purchasing a memorial urn. Burying of ashes generally occurs at a crematorium’s garden of remembrance or in a family grave. Ashes can be buried just about anywhere provided permission from landowner is given and that local rules and regulations are adhered to.

Wildcat Scattering – Typically known as wildcat scatterings, this form of ash dispersing is also known as to the wind, and it entails spreading the ashes out into the open and letting the wind carry them off. This can be done at a location, which was sentimental to the individual. While there are no regulations on ash scattering, it is important to take into consideration of your surroundings, for example:

• Avoid windy days so others will not endure blowback from the ashes.

• If scattering onto a river, release the ash close to the surface. Be sure to release the ash away from where people swim and within 1km upstream of a drinking water supply.

• If you plan on leaving a wreath, ensure there are no plastics or metals that may litter or harm wildlife.

When choosing to disperse ashes to the wind, it is always best to choose a favorite spot or one that is sentimental to the departed or loved ones. However, in spots that are popular for ash spreading, it is important to remember that even dispersing ashes can have a negative affect on the local eco-system over time, as cremated ashes being released in a particular spot can cause phosphate enrichment.

Stratospheric Scattering – Similar to wildcat scatterings, a stratospheric scattering is a scattering where the ashes are dispersed directly into the upper atmosphere using environmentally-friendly balloons, with a unique release mechanism, which carries ashes to a height of 100,000 ft. This allows the ashes to circulate the globe.

Trenching – For those who love the beach, a cost efficient and sentimental means of dispersing ashes can be by digging a shallow hole or trench in the ground or sand, and then placing the remains into the trench, then covering or raking it over. When timed correctly, this would allow the tide to come in and ceremoniously wash the ashes out to sea. What this further allows is an opportunity to create a personal message or writing of the loved one’s name.

Water Scattering – Perhaps the most common form of ash dispersal, water scatterings have been seen as a natural form of ash dispersal for many years. It is a process that is personal, cost-efficient with no paperwork or licenses required, and there are even charter companies available who will assist anyone who wishes to disperse loved ones’ ashes into the sea.

When opting for a water scattering, one of the best ways to carry this out is by placing the ashes in a water-soluble scattering urn, simply because ashes cast directly into the water can sometimes blow back at the boat. With a water-soluble scattering urn, once it is placed into the water, it will gently float away before sinking after a few minutes where it will then dissolve, dispersing ashes very slowly.

Memorial Reef – Coral reefs have been long held as the most spectacular and fragile of underwater environments. They are biologically diverse, act as a natural barrier protecting coastal cities, communities and beaches, and carry within them potential treatments for many of the world’s most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprised that a number of companies have been emerging over the past few years offering environmentally safe, cast concrete memorial reefs to create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life.

What these companies do is take the cremated remains of an individual and incorporate them into an environmentally safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations.

Fireworks – When Gonzo Journalist, Hunter S. Thompson died, his final wishes were to have a sendoff in which his ashes were blasted from a rocket shaped like a closed fist with two thumbs. Johnny Depp made his memorial possible during a private memorial ceremony, but while such a feat may seem exuberant in costs, an alternative method is available for those who wish to have their ashes used in fireworks.

In fact, there are a number of companies who specialize in embedding a small amount of cremated ashes into a firework for self-firing at a service or memorial.

Airplane Scattering – For aviators or aviation enthusiasts, airplane scattering has quickly become a global practice. With airplane ash scatterings available around the world, from Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean Sea, Panama Canal, Ganges River and the United States, anyone can have the memorial they’ve always wanted.

Skydive Scattering – While not common, some skydiving clubs have on occasion done ash scattering for past club members. Essentially, this is the sendoff for those who have lived life to the extreme and enjoy the thrills of jumping out of a plane at 3,000 feet to free fall at 120mph. This can be done as a family group, in which everyone jumps from the plane, while falling, the ashes are released.

Hot Air Balloon Scattering – Similar to skydiving scatterings, a hot air balloon scattering is a service available for loved ones who wish to commemorate their loved one by dispersing the ashes high above in a private charter.

Space Trip – Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, actor James Doohan, and even Timothy Leary have one thing in common; all three have had their ashes sent into space to orbit the earth. So while space may be the final frontier, a place where only a few have ventured to, others can now follow with Celestis, a company which specializes in launching cremated remains into space for a procedure known as a space burial.

Shooting – For those avid hunters, one of the most interesting means of dispersing ashes is by encasing the cremains in the shells of bullets and then firing them off in one of their favorite wildlife areas. It’s through these memorial salutes that the ashes of loved ones can be loaded into upwards of 250 shotgun shells, 100 rifle cartridges or 250 pistol cartridges.



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