I was recently contacted by our local NPR affiliate, KUOW, to answer some questions about cremation scattering and reasons behind the increase in cremation as a method of disposition. The main questions being: can you just scatter anywhere, and who do you need to get permission from?

Well, if you feel like rolling the dice to see if you get in trouble, I say go ahead. I mean really, what are they going to do? Vacuum them up and tell you to go home? Joking aside, no matter what the legal ramifications are for your cavalier scattering proclivities, there are ethical and emotional consequences for poor choices.  Let’s take a look at what some of the straight forward answers are:

Why is Cremation on the Rise?

Cremation is on the rise because it’s more affordable and it’s more convenient. Every family has factors that weigh into the decision, and underneath them all, these two things are generally the underpinnings. Traditional embalming and burial has become so expensive that many people just don’t see any value in it. A fancy funeral and preservation methods ultimately won’t bring their loved one back.

Who Do I Need to Get Permission From?

Who you need to beg permission from to scatter depends on who owns the land.

On private land you just need the permission of the owner. I suggest you get this in writing, but of you feel like running fast and loose, you can run with that. The reason I suggest you get a record is more than avoiding litigation or trespassing issues, it is also so you have a historical record for your family for generations to come. If its your land, make a note of it and give it some ceremony and have a scattering signing paper that you can have an officiant fill out to mark the occasion.

When it comes to scattering on public lands, you need to seek the permission of the governing body. For state and county parks, contact the park manager and inquire about permits needed. If it is a city park, check with the parks department. Google is magical. Try the parks manager office and see where the Easter egg hunt takes you. On federal lands, you need to talk to the park ranger. Mt. Rainier is, quite literally, coated in the ashes of the dead. Their web site even has a page for it.

Fortunately, here in the Seattle area, we welcome gay marriage, recycling programs, bike lanes and scattering on all off the navigable waterways.  Note: Greenlake is NOT navigable. You can scatter in Puget Sound no problem. In fact, you can actually schedule a scattering ceremony on the back of a Washington State Ferry! They will slow the boat down a bit mid-crossing and you toss a water biodegradable urn filed with your loved one off the aft of the boat. Does it get much better?

No matter where you want to scatter, do yourself and your neighbors the kindness of doing a little bit of investigation before you go through with the act.


A note of technical correction: In the interview, I said that a cremation was roughly equivalent to a 300 – 400 mile car trip. If you have a car that gets mileage that is equal to or better than the national average of 24.1, it pencils out to something around 590 miles.