This is advertiser content for Northern Cemeteries.
In a first for New South Wales, an everlasting and environmentally-sensitive memorialisation option is providing a clean alternative to scattering the ashes of loved ones.
Crown land manager Northern Cemeteries, which oversees five not-for-profit memorial sites in Sydney and Newcastle, has partnered with Living Legacy Forest to bring the green initiative to Macquarie Park Cemetery and Crematorium, North Ryde, and Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery, Davidson.
Melbourne-based Living Legacy Forest's founder Warren Roberts believes many people don't realise that spreading normal cremated human ashes in various locations may damage the environment.
"Traditionally, people have scattered ashes in nature and waterways totally unaware of the harm caused by their high alkaline levels - which are similar to bleach or oven cleaner," Mr Roberts explained.
"Our organic technology uses a unique treatment process that gradually transforms ashes into nutrients so when they come into direct contact with the root system, help to nurture the tree's growth.
"The method is suitable for both native and exotic trees across a range of soil conditions."
Northern Cemeteries' Chief Executive Officer Pauline Tritton said they are excited to be the first burial provider in the state to offer the alternative option.
"People's opinions and wishes around memorialisation and burial services are shifting, and we want to make sure they are considered and accommodated now and into the future," Mrs Tritton said.
Creating a Living Legacy involves choosing the location, selecting a sapling species and personalised plaque, treating the ashes, and arranging the planting ceremony.
Family options can hold up to four sets of ashes with the cemetery responsible for the tree's ongoing care and maintenance.
"Families can now plant a living landmark, providing a natural memorial of their loved one to be tended and honoured," Mrs Tritton said.
"Additionally, every time someone chooses a legacy tree, we will be donating 200 planted saplings to help create more air than a person breathes in a lifetime."
New South Wales families who have chosen the Living Legacy to honour the lives of their loved ones say it was a welcome alternative.
When Elizabeth lost her husband after a long illness - and in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis - she heard about the Living Legacy option at Macquarie Park Cemetery and knew it was the right choice for her.
"Being able to plant a tree meant we could remember him with something living," she said. "While he may be physically gone from this earth, for me the tree symbolises that he is now living in heaven. That's really important for me."
For another family, sustainability was a key factor in their choice to choose a Living Legacy tree memorial for their elderly mother.
"We were drawn to planting a beautiful Magnolia which seemed just a really nice way to remember Mum. We'll miss her but now there is something that will grow in her memory," said Karen.
"It's also a step in creating a more sustainable environment - that was an important factor in our decision.
"Dad is now 92 and will be able to join Mum when the time arrives. That's a really comforting feeling."
Disposing of ashes, which may cause air, land, or water pollution, without consent from appropriate authorities in New South Wales could result in legal proceedings under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. Permission to spread ashes is currently required from private landowners, trusts of parks and reserves, and local councils responsible for parks, beaches and playing fields.