Tré lífsins (‘Tree of Life’), a private organization that seeks to provide alternative, nondenominational, and environmentally friendly end-of-life services will be opening a crematorium and ‘Memory Garden’ in the capital-area municipality of Garðabær, RÚV reports. Founder Sigríður Bylgja Sigurjónsdóttir says that now that permits have been approved, fundraising for the project is the next major step. She hopes that the crematorium and funeral facilities will be up and running within three years.
As part of its efforts to get the project approved by local authorities, Tré lífsins has resurrected the Icelandic Cremation Association, which previously operated from 1934-1964. The association established a crematorium in Fossvogur at the time, and Tré lífsins had hoped to take over that facility. It was not equipped with any emissions control equipment, however, and negotiations had stalled. In the end, it was simply easier to apply for an entirely new facility to be built.
“We’ve experienced a great deal of good will toward the project and felt that the need for this is significant,” remarked Sigríður, who says that 50% of Icelanders are opting for cremation in lieu of traditional burials these days. She adds that she expects that the number of cremations will increase in Iceland in the coming years.
Services at Tré lífsins will be available to individuals regardless of their religious beliefs or views. Sigríður says there is a great need for spaces that are open to everyone for various activities in times of happiness or grief.
“So for people who maybe don’t want to have a traditional ceremony in a church or something else that is available, we want to have options. But of course, also for everyone, regardless of whether people are Christian, pagan, or anything else.”
Per the Tré lífsins website, services will be restricted at the beginning to those with Icelandic citizenship or permanent residence. The Memory Garden will stand in lieu of a traditional cemetery: “After the cremation people can choose to plant their ashes with a tree in a Memory Garden where the tree will grow up as a living memory of a loved one.”