What are Better Place Forests?
Better Place Forests are natural, sustainable alternatives to cemeteries for those who choose cremation. When you purchase a memorial tree in one of our memorial forests across the U.S., you contribute to the lasting protection of forestland and wildlife habitats that your loved ones can enjoy – now and for years to come.
Our mission is to inspire everyone to leave a meaningful legacy for the planet and the people they love. Learn more by visiting our About Us page.
How does it work?
Better Place Forests offers a natural alternative to cemeteries for those who choose cremation. When you choose a memorial tree, you help protect it and the entire forest for years to come.
Our team will help you plan a forest memorial to create an experience that’s right for you, and the ashes of loved ones and pets can join your tree in the future if you choose. When the time comes, ashes are mixed with local soil and placed at the base of your tree, becoming part of the forest.
How did Better Place Forests get started?
Better Place Forests was founded in 2015 by Sandy Gibson, Brad Milne and Jamie Knowlton. Our CEO Sandy Gibson lost his parents at a young age and grew up going to a noisy urban cemetery in downtown Toronto. He knew there had to be a better solution. Read more of Sandy's story here.
Where is Better Place Forests headquartered?
We have team members working from each forest and our headquarters in San Francisco at 3727 Buchanan Street, FL4, San Francisco, CA 94123.
Where are the forests located?
We memorial forest locations from coast to coast:
Visit Our Forests for the most up-to-date list of forest locations. We are always looking to add new forests in new regions. Check our social media channels for announcements. If you have a specific location you’d like us to consider, fill out this form.
What happens in the event of a forest fire?
By selecting healthy forests and following forest management best practices, our arborists work to reduce the risk of fire damage and disease. If any Better Place Forests forest is affected by a fire or other natural disaster, we will offer a free transfer and work with local experts to restore the forest to health.
For customers who have had a forest memorial at their tree, our team will work with you to make sure we represent the best possible outcome for the location of your spreading area.
Can I transfer to a different forest?
Yes, you can transfer to a different forest. Within a 10-year period before you spread ashes, we offer you one free transfer to another tree of the same value or as credit towards a tree of higher value. If you transfer to a tree of a lesser value within the refund period, you will receive a refund of the price difference.
Does Better Place Forests own the land?
Better Place Forests owns and maintains our forests. It's our goal to create meaningful memorials while conserving beautiful forests at the same time. By owning the forests, we can build infrastructure like visitors centers and restrooms, ensure proper forestry practices, and provide safe access for families and visitors. Some of our forests do border public open spaces such as regional, state or national parks.
How do you choose land?
Our process for selecting land to protect begins by identifying land with high conservation value. For us, conservation value means land that possesses significant natural, cultural, historic, biodiversity, ecological, wildlife habitat, riparian, scenic, educational, or open space values, and faces a threat of development or loss of these values. We ultimately choose our land based off of a number of these conservation values, in combination with ensuring there is safe access and sufficient and appropriate trees for our customers
What does Better Place Forests do if my memorial tree dies?
Something happening to your tree in the short-term is an unlikely occurrence because the trees in our forests are healthy and we care for them and the property as a whole. But trees are natural beings, and over time if something does happen to your tree if no ashes have been spread, we will help you or your loved ones find another established tree. If ashes have been spread we work with you to replant a tree or otherwise make sure we represent the best possible outcome for the location of your spreading area.
Do I get to choose my own tree?
Yes. Choosing your final resting place is a deeply personal decision, and we think the honor of choosing your memorial tree should be yours. Something may strike you about a particular tree, such as its unique features, view, or surrounding landscape. That’s what makes choosing your tree such a special experience. You can talk with an advisor for help picking a tree that’s uniquely yours.
Are the trees in the forest accessible by foot?
Yes. We maintain trails for you and your loved ones to easily navigate our forests. For those with limited mobility, we offer a motorized vehicle to some areas of the forest. If you have additional questions about accessibility, please ask your advisor during an online tour or email us at [email protected].
What is a memorial marker?
The memorial marker is similar to survey monuments used by the US Geological Survey (USGS) to mark important geographical locations. It is around 4" in diameter and made of brass. At the time of your choosing, the marker is inscribed and anchored near the base of your tree. The words on the marker can be customized per your wishes.
What tree species do you offer?
Native tree species vary by forest location. Book an online tour to learn more about our current inventory in your forest of choice.
Can I visit the forest?
Yes, you can visit the forest throughout the year by appointment and for drop-ins during operating hours. You are welcome to bring food, enjoy the trails, and invite friends, loved ones, and pets on a leash.
To best support you and your community of friends and loved ones, we ask that you schedule an appointment for your first visit so that we can assist you in finding your tree and providing a tour of the entire forest. After your first visit, you are welcome to come during designated drop-in days, which vary by forest and season, or make an appointment. We are also open for regular operations on most holidays with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
If you're a new customer and you'd like to visit one of our forests, speak with an advisor. You can also reach us by phone at 877-830-8311.
What can I expect during a visit to a Better Place Forests location?
When you arrive in the forest, you'll be greeted by our forest guides who will answer any questions and take you on a walking tour of the forest. Average tours last between 60-90 minutes.
All of our forests are equipped with accessible restroom facilities and refreshments for our visitors. In case of rain, there are permanent or temporary visitor centers in each forest, and our forest guides have umbrellas available for use. In cases of extreme weather, we’ll ask that you reschedule your visit to a time when conditions have improved.
Our forest teams also have a motorized vehicle for visitors requiring mobility assistance. The mobility vehicle is an off-road vehicle that requires passengers to be able to climb up into the vehicle. Note: not all memorial trees will be directly accessible by vehicle.
Please reach out to our Customer Care team if you have further questions or need additional accommodations for your visit. They can be reached by email at [email protected] or phone/text at (415) 851-7138.
Can we bring food and beverages to have a reception in the forest? Are there trash cans available?
We currently don’t offer event services or facilities for receptions. We do allow customers to bring in their own food & beverage and welcome small, informal gatherings such as picnics. Trash cans are on site.
How do I schedule an online forest tour?
Click here to book an online tour with one of our expert advisors. During your online tour, we’ll show you the forest, explain your options, and help you choose a tree—all from the comfort of home.
How are Better Place Forests locations protected?
Our process for protecting land begins by identifying and purchasing land with high conservation value. For us, conservation value means land that is in a natural, scenic, historical, agricultural, forested, or open-space condition. Often, the properties we consider are wildlife habitats and may face a threat of development or loss of these values.
Once we have purchased a property, we develop forest management plans and obtain local permits that provide for the preservation, protection, or enhancement of that conservation value. Then, we grant each customer an irrevocable license to access their memorial tree, and we record those licenses with local governments. Finally, we establish Stewardship Trusts to fund the perpetual maintenance of our forests, and we seek conservation easements to permanently protect the land from development. This is a years-long, multi-step approach for each of our forests.
Do ashes impact trees or forest health?
Ashes are mixed with local soil so they won’t cause harm when they are returned to the base of your tree. This also ensures that, as the bacteria in the soil naturally breaks down bone ashes over time, the ashes become bioavailable to the forest.
The chemical composition of ashes primarily includes phosphate, calcium, and potassium. While large concentrations of these minerals can indeed be harmful to the environment, Better Place Forests’ introduction of ashes mixed with native soil will not cause any significant impacts to environmental or human health on site.
What are Better Place Forests’ conservation efforts?
Forest protection is at the core of our mission at Better Place Forests. We put in place a lifetime of stewardship and conservation efforts including regular assessments to check for disease, overcrowding, or fire risk.
Protecting existing forests is important because older and larger trees are able to store the most carbon. Long-standing trees, like the ones in our forests, have the biggest potential to help our planet now. As we work to place conservation easements on our properties through accredited land trusts, we will create a structure allowing our forests to live and grow to their fullest potential.
We’re also committed to replanting thousands of trees each year in partnership with the nonprofit One Tree Planted to help reforest America. When you reserve a tree, we plant 25-400 new saplings in areas affected by deforestation or forest fires. Better Place Forests has donated over 200,000 trees to One Tree Planted to support several reforestation and planting projects across the country.
How do you manage the forests?
Better Place Forests strives to manage for healthy, resilient and biodiverse ecosystems through the stewardship of sensitive habitats, plants, and wildlife. Actions undertaken will increase the aesthetic value of the forest landscape, improve access and reduce risk while improving ecological integrity and customer safety standards.
Our Forest Management team includes expert biologists, hydrologists, arborists, and pedologists. In partnership with local forestry experts, they develop management plans for each forest to conserve, protect and improve ecosystems on our properties while providing safe access for our customers and employees.
Actions we take:
We will commence with thinning and potential logging as it relates to the continued health of the forest when recommended by local forestry experts and as expressed in our forest management plans.
Does Better Place Forests have conservation easements on all of their properties?
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a third party, like a land trust or government agency, that permanently limits the development of the land. This limit is in place regardless of who owns the property.
We have not placed any easements on our forests to date. We are actively structuring easements with local land trusts for a number of our forests. This initiative is a long process and it’s one we are committed to pursuing.
Does Better Place Forests offer cremation?
Better Place Forests does not provide cremation services. You can find trusted partners by searching for local funeral homes or crematorium or emailing us at [email protected].
Can I spread my pets' ashes around my memorial tree?
Yes! We encourage the inclusion of pets in your memorial.
How many sets of ashes can I spread at my tree?
Each memorial package comes with spreading rights, which is the right to spread ashes at the base of your tree (e.g. "two spreading rights" are the right to spread two sets of ashes). You may add additional spreading rights at an added cost. There are some limitations to the number of ashes that can be spread at your tree over its lifetime. Talk to an advisor to learn more about restrictions by forest, memorial packages, and the number of spreading rights each tree includes, or visit our pricing page.
What is a forest memorial?
A forest memorial is a private, personal ceremony in which the ashes are mixed with soil and placed at the base of the tree, continuing the life cycle of the forest. Our team will be available to assist in scheduling, planning, and facilitation of each forest memorial. You will be welcome to bring an officiant or personalize the forest memorial as you wish.
Forest memorials can be scheduled by contacting Customer Care and connecting with a Memorial Specialist. Memorial planning usually takes about a month. In some forests, we have seasonal dependencies that restrict the times of year we can conduct a memorial. Trees are required to be fully paid off before a memorial can be scheduled. A copy of each decedent's death certificate is required upon scheduling.
What information do you have on body donation programs?
Some body donation programs provide cremation for free and the ashes are returned after the study period which can range from one month to two years. Not all programs return ashes though, so make sure to ask!
If you donate your body to science, you can still use Better Place Forests for your memorial.
How does Better Place Forests' pricing compare to traditional memorial options?
The average burial, plot, and headstone costs around $15,000 per person. We offer a range of prices for any budget — some at less than half the cost of a traditional burial.
How much does a Better Place Forests memorial tree cost?
Pricing for each tree is based on several factors, including location, setting (such as views and water features), tree type and size, and the number of spreading rights. Our multiple ash spreading policy allows the right to additional ceremonies (including pets) to be added at any time.
We intentionally structure our pricing with flexibility, transparency, and affordability in mind so you feel confident in your decision in choosing one of our beautiful forest spaces to honor your memory.
What do I get with my purchase?
Better Place Forests provides you with a beautiful place to write a better ending to your story. At one of our several memorial forests, you can choose a memorial tree as your final resting place, commemorated with a personalized marker that makes it easy for your loved ones to find and visit you.