Cremation and Scattering

What is cremation?

(c) / Florian L

(c) / Florian L

An alternative to intact body burial, cremation makes use of high temperature burning, vaporization, and oxidation to reduce a body to its basic chemical compounds. These ash-like remains are then able to be buried, scattered, or retained by family members for personal preservation.

Cremation dates back at least 20,000 years to partial remains found in Australia, and has been, or is currently practised by, several of the world’s religions and spiritual groups. The choice to cremate is a highly personal one, but may be driven by a preference to avoid slow decomposition or an environmentally-driven desire to avoid some of the toxic by-products of an intact burial, often caused by commonly-used embalming fluids such as formaldehyde.

Minimizing Environmental Impacts and OUR Requirements

With BC’s 80% cremation rate—one of the highest in the world—we are simply expanding on what has already become the provincial norm.  While cremation is energy intensive and contributes to our carbon footprint, research conducted by Adelaide’s Centennial Park paints a more holistic picture of the environmental impacts of both cremation and conventional burial.  The research considers resource consumption, air emissions, waste disposal, and soil and groundwater contamination. The study found that 160 kilograms of carbon dioxide is produced on the day of a cremation, almost four times more than a burial. But over the long term, the maintenance of a gravesite, such as watering and mowing, generates more carbon dioxide.

As an additional way to minimize the environmental impact of scatterings at OUR Commemorative Conservation Scattering Grounds, we require all cremations to take place in an environmentally-friendly manner, and ask that remains be placed in an ecologically-sound container for transportation to the crematorium. According to BC regulations, cremation vessels/caskets must be free of plastic, fiberglass, foam or Styrofoam, rubber, polyvinyl chloride, and zinc. They must also be:

  • of sufficient strength to contain and move human remains;
  • capable of being closed so that the public is not able to see the human remains;
  • constructed so that it does not leak or otherwise cause  hazard to any person’s health;
  • rigid.

The funeral director and/or crematorium will also be required to sign an internment form specifying that no embalming fluid was used and that the scattering urn is free of toxins and biodegradable.

Scattering Techniques we use at OUR:

Casting Ashes: This is the act of tossing the ashes to the wind. Usually this is done by one individual while others look on. Care and consideration of others should be used when casting. Casting can also be done as a group. People can take turns doing a partial scattering one at a time. Another option is a group scattering, where multiple people scatter the ashes simultaneously in a toast-like gesture using some type of sacred cups. Wind direction should be considered to ensure that ashes are cast downwind. The ashes are mostly made up of a dense sand-like matter and will quickly fall to the ground, but some of it will be a fine powder, which will form a whiteish grey cloud.

Ringing Ashes: A ring of ashes is formed on the ground around an object or group of objects by holding the scattering urn close to the ground and pouring out a ring of ashes. Friends and family members can create an outer ring around the ashes and take turns stepping into the ring to share words of remembrance.

Raking Ashes: Cremated ashes are poured from the scattering urn evenly on loose soil and raked into the ground at the conclusion of the ashes scattering ceremony.

Cremation Resources:

About Cremation:

light streaming through treesCrematoriums on Southern Vancouver Island

While these locations offered some sort of eco-friendly cremation service, biodegradable urn, or environmentally-sound cremation casket option at the time of compilation, we remind all potential consumers to check with crematoriums at the time of legacy planning or need, in order to ensure they still offer services and products commensurate with your needs and the regulations of both BC and O.U.R. These are just a few of the options available locally and we encourage you to find the best fit for your loved ones and needs.

Earth’s Option
• Based in Victoria, BC, offering cremation and planning resources with an emphasis on green burial. Includes home visits as part of the planning process so that you don’t need to interact with a daunting funeral home location. Offers an extensive list of resources on site.

Simply Cremations
•  Based in Sidney, BC (just north of Victoria), offering simplified cremation services and cardboard or simple wooden cremation caskets as well as biodegradable urns.

Royal Oak Burial Park
• Victoria-based cemetery and crematorium offers green and natural burials and has experience preparing for natural interment through its cremation practices.

Harold W. Wallace Cremation and Burial Centre
Duncan-based crematorium and funeral home that prides itself on providing culturally-sensitive service to all members of the Cowichan Valley. They can deliver ashes to you to help facilitate a scattering or ceremony of your choice.

Eco-friendly Caskets and Urns:

Imperial Evergreen Casket Corporation (Burnaby, BC)
• Corn-based urns and caskets made of non-formaldehyde fiberboard, or unfinished paperboard products, as well as woven caskets made from bamboo or alder strips. Made in China and imported from the US.

Simple Pine Boxes (Prince George, BC)
• Offers caskets handcrafted from local trees (including an option of beetle-killed trees), making use of local products and non-toxic, water-based glues. Families are given the option of assembling and decorating their caskets.

Please contact us if you are interested in exploring one of OUR eco-friendly caskets or urns, made onsite by OUR staff.