The biodegradable urns from Passages happened by accident.

Darren Crouch and his business partner, Tim Rivera (licensed director and funeral home owner) started the company after noticing that most of the cremation families they served were bypassing the traditional urns and taking the least expensive option (a plastic or cardboard box).

After diligent research, it became obvious that families were not being presented with realistic options.  The traditional urn offerings, even when priced extremely low, were rejected by the new breed of cremation buyer.

Their focus quickly changed to finding an appropriate non-traditional urn design that would fill the gap.

Because they couldn’t use traditional materials such as polished wood, stone or marble, they searched for another option.  This search led them to biodegradable papers.

The papers (made from mulberry tree bark sometimes infused with flowers) are both biodegradable and attractive.  An added benefit to the makers:  they don’t look like traditional urns.

“There’s a close connection between cremation consumers and the environment,” says Crouch, president of Passages.  And since burial is often touted for its preservative nature, many who want a more natural or “ashes-to-ashes” disposition turn to cremation.

(Pictured above:  Journey Earthurn from Passages)During the first several years of existence, the men fielded numerous requests about using their urns for water scattering.  While their Journey Earthurn (a staple of their line and a big seller) was suitable for water disposition and unique in its own right, they searched for something that would be “clearly themed” with an obvious use.  Further research revealed that 40% of cremation families intend to scatter the remains, while 70% of those will do so over water.

Taking into account the challenges and shortcomings of other urns designed for water burial, the men created the Shell Deep Water Bio Urn.

A step above the competition, the Shell urn is easy to load (no seams to match up or sides to snap together) and comes with a convenient carrying case and a water-soluble plastic bag for the remains.  Each urn is specially-molded from recycled paper and handpainted in a choice of three colors.  A best seller, their Shell line now includes a permanent keepsake shell urn.  Interestingly, Passages donates a portion of each sale to The Ocean Conservancy in memory of the deceased.

Fresh off the success of their Shell urn, Passages has recently begun offering child caskets made from their signature materials.  The selling point they stress?  Their caskets don’t look like traditional caskets. 

The infant caskets are lined with fleece (like a baby’s first clothes), have no handles and are available in sizes up to 32 inches. 

“The families are moved by the softer look of the casket,” says Crouch.

Passages has also created a line of pet cremation and burial products.  With 33 million American pets dying every year, Crouch sees an opportunity for funeral directors to offer choice to consumers. 

Passages didn’t start out as an environmentally-focused company, but their efforts in the marketplace have helped mold their priorities.

“We’ve embraced the environmental and social responsibility that comes with being a green company,” says Crouch.  With larger companies like Shell and GE running ads highlighting their social conscience, Crouch sees a shift in corporate American that’s driven by the American consumer.

“The funeral industry seems to be a step behind the general public,” Crouch asserts.  And as the general public begins asking for more environmentally-conscious methods of disposition (green burial, cremation, etc.) and eco-friendly products, funeral homes who offer those options will be in the best position to gain.

How does he know that the American funeral consumer is ready for his product? 

Because the most commonly heard response to an explanation of their urns is one word:  “Cool.”

Biodegradable urns from Passages carry a suggested retail price of $85 and up.  Suggested retail for the Shell Deep Water Bio urn starts at $250.

For funeral directors searching for an inexpensive option to provide as a minimum urn (to dump that ugly cardboard box we all seem to give to our direct cremation families) can find them from Passages for as little at $40 each.

Contact Info: or 888-460-8400.

DISCLAIMER:  Final Embrace and its representatives (That means ME!) are IN NO WAY connected to Passages International.  We were NOT compensated and will not accept contributions from Passages in relation to this article.  Although I’d love to get my hands on one of those Shells – grandma always wanted sea scattering.  Sigh… guess I’ll have to spend some cash.  (See what I do for my readers!  I could have asked for the moon, but I thought about my objectivity and kept it on the up and up.)