Mangrove trees in early stages of development(Photo: Mangrove.org)

Riley, 59, an avid environmentalist and entrepreneur, is the founder of ecoMemorial.org, an organization that offers people an alternative to traditional burial and an innovative way to create a memorial for themselves or their loved ones that will go on living long after they die, while also helping the environment and saving them money.

"Cemeteries are not ecologically sound," Riley says. "Most green and natural burial methods are based on the idea of minimizing the negative impact of human remains on the environment. We saw the chance to create a positive environmental impact that would benefit future generations."

Death Supports Life-giving Projects

In 1996, Riley founded mangrove.org, an organization dedicated to restoring mangrove forests in coastal areas where erosion, storms and human development have destroyed or degraded them and the critical habitat they help to sustain. He developed a special method of nurturing mangroves to maturity, which solves the problems typically associated with mangrove restoration and ensures a greater success rate.

"The failure of previous mangrove restoration projects was usually attributed to wave action, but the real problem is debris," Riley says. "Because it is driven by the wind and waves, the debris doesn't just arrive on shore and stay put. It moves back and forth, back and forth, and scrapes away any vegetation. By starting trees in a controlled environment, we were able to solve that problem."

Eco-Friendly Burials

Yet Riley's ability to launch and sustain mangrove restoration projects in the places where they are most needed was limited by his lack of a steady source of funding. That's what initially inspired him to start ecoMemorial.org.

"The idea of combining green burial with mangrove restoration was very appealing to me personally, and when I started talking to other people I got a lot of positive feedback," he says. "I saw an opportunity to create self-funding mangrove restoration projects. If funding was no longer a restriction, we could have such an impact."