Could Trees Be the New Gravestones?

– Better Place Forests in New York Times

The New York Times
By Nellie Bowles
July 12, 2019

A Cal­i­for­nia start-up wants to “redesign the entire end-of-life expe­ri­ence.” The answer to “eter­ni­ty man­age­ment”? Forests.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Death comes for all of us, but Sil­i­con Val­ley has, until recent­ly, not come for death.

Who can blame them for the hes­i­ta­tion? The death ser­vices indus­try is heav­i­ly reg­u­lat­ed and fraught with reli­gious and health con­sid­er­a­tions. The han­dling of dead bod­ies doesn’t seem ripe for ven­ture-backed dis­rup­tion. The grave­stone doesn’t seem an obvi­ous tar­get for innovation.

But in a for­est south of Sil­i­con Val­ley, a new start-up is hop­ing to change that. The com­pa­ny is called Bet­ter Place Forests. It’s try­ing to make a bet­ter graveyard.

Ceme­ter­ies are real­ly expen­sive and real­ly ter­ri­ble, and basi­cal­ly I just knew there had to be some­thing bet­ter,” said Sandy Gib­son, the chief exec­u­tive of Bet­ter Place. “We’re try­ing to redesign the entire end-of-life experience.”

And so Mr. Gibson’s com­pa­ny is buy­ing forests, arrang­ing con­ser­va­tion ease­ments intend­ed to pre­vent the land from ever being devel­oped, and then sell­ing peo­ple the right to have their cre­mat­ed remains mixed with fer­til­iz­er and fed to a par­tic­u­lar tree.


Every indus­try seems to have its time when things get wild,” said Nan­cy Pfund, the founder and a man­ag­ing part­ner at DBL Part­ners, which led ear­ly fund­ing. “It’s been mobile apps, it’s been cars, it’s been fake meat, and now it is death care,” she said.

But we have to come up with a bet­ter name than ‘death care.’ Maybe it’s lega­cy care,” she added. “Maybe it’s eter­ni­ty management.”

To read the com­plete arti­cle, vis­it The New York Times.