Cremation is one of the livings’ ways of honoring the dead. While you pay respect for the memory of your deceased loved one, this is one way to not compromise the safety of our natural environment and the other creatures inhabiting it.
Cremation can be eco-friendly if done properly. Cremation produces lesser environmental damage than the traditional in-ground burial. Additionally, the process of cremation can be even safer for the environment through what is known as green cremation.
What Is Green Cremation?
Green cremation or eco-cremation is an alternative way to honor our loved ones without having to risk the safety of the environment. This type of cremation is now being practiced in some parts of the world. Unlike traditional cremation where the process requires burning of the body in an extremely high temperature furnace, green cremation undergoes a natural process of disintegration with the use of water and potassium hydroxide.
While green cremation seems to be a breath of fresh air for the general public, it is actually not that new of a process. Back in 1888, a U.S patent for alkaline hydrolisis was granted to Amos Herbert. After more than a century, in 1998, the University of Florida started using biocremation. Later on, in 2006, the Mayo Clinic implemented and proposed a similar biocremation system as an alternative the traditional processes of burial and cremation.
How Does Green Cremation Work?
The corpse is placed inside a pressurized steel chamber, then added are the water and alkali of 95% and 5%, respectively. The temperature is then raised to 350 degrees. The mixture of heat, pressure, water, and alkali completely breaks down the organs and muscles of the body, leaving only the bone fragments. The sterile solution, which is the result of the process, is then drained from the chamber to undergo a wastewater treatment to be recycled and utilized. What was left in the chamber as ashes will then be put inside an urn for the family of the deceased.
Similar to traditional cremation, the process reducing a dead human body to ash via green cremation takes about 2 to 3 hours, which is definitely faster than traditional burial.
How Does Cremation Benefit The Environment?
If we are to compare traditional burial to cremation according to their harmfulness to the environment, it is likely that cremation is the more efficient and environmentally friendly option among the two and here’s why:
1. Unlike Traditional Burial, Cremation Does Not Require A Plot Of Land
It is with no doubt that cremation saves a lot of land space because it does not require a large area below the ground to be buried, thus does not utilized much of the Earth’s surface. Unlike caskets that specifically need to be buried in cemeteries or mausoleums, urns can be easily placed in a small spaces often times even in their own homes, or ashes can be scattered in cremation garden or memorial parks.
2. Cremation Needs No Casket
Some caskets are made of wood which are acquired from cutting down trees. Some are made of bronze and copper which may eventually pose risks to the environment because of the mechanical and chemical processes they have gone through. Meanwhile, cremation does not require all of this, making it more eco-friendly and cost-effective. Scattering at sea may be one of your options which is definitely one of the most natural ways of returning an earthly body back to its natural habitat. However, you must first check your respective cities’ laws and guidelines regarding scattering services. You may also check EPA guidelines to know more about scattering ashes at sea.
3. Cremation Does Not Use As Many Chemicals
Since the process of traditional cremation uses heat in reducing a dead body, it does not require a lot of chemicals. As compared with a traditional burial where the body may undergoe the process of embalming thereby using strong and harmful synthetic substances. It does not also involve the disintegration of metal hinges from the caskets or the metal from a metal castket which can also be burden to our environment over time.
4. Urns Can Be Biodegradable
You may not opt to do a scattering service which will require you to have some type of storage for the ashes. But if you want to scatter the ashes with the urn, biodegradable and water-soluble urns are also available in the market. This is worth looking into further should you desire to avoid scattering your loved one’s ashes.
5. Remains Can Be Sustainable
In some cases, you may want to consider having the ashes incorporated into arts or marine life preservation. If you are thinking of other good ways to make your loved ones’ remains more sustainable, here some of the options you can choose from:
- Tattoo: You may opt to mix the ashes with ink and turn them into a great tattoo. Through this, you will have a permanent connection with the deceased sticking to your very skin. This is a relatively new option and could be valuable if you desire.
- Paintings: It is no longer a secret that a lot of artists nowadays use unique kinds of materials in their artistic drawings such as sand and coffee which both can have a similar texture to ashes. You can actually draw you loved ones using their own ashes and have their beautiful memories hung on your wall.
- Jewelry: Art really does have unlimited varieties! Would you believe that a deceased’s ashes can be turned into wonderful jewelry? Some companies actually offer such services. Aside from jewelry, they also can make stained glass and other shimmering products to perfectly match the splendid time your loved one had experienced on Earth.
- Reef: Wouldn’t it be nice to know that someone’s ashes can help give life to the creatures beneath the sea? A company named Eternal Reef helps sustain marine life by putting into good use the remains of the dead. They use ashes to create a reef and provide a rather safe habitat to protect the marine creatures.
Can You Become A Tree After You Die?
Imagine a cemetery full of trees instead of tombstones. Isn’t it refreshing? Isn’t it nice to think that a person’s remains can actually be used to sustain another life on earth in a form of a tree?
This is what exactly Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli have imagined when they created the Capsula Mundi— Latin for “world’s capsule”. Capsula Mundi is an egg-shaped biodegradable pod that can be used as an alternative to typical metal-made caskets or urns. Basically, once buried, these pods will eventually break down and the remains that were enveloped inside them will then provide nutrients to sustain the life of the trees that were planted just above them. It’s just as if the dead has been reincarnated into a tree! As brilliant as it may sound, this invention, however, is not yet accepted and practiced by various countries due to some moral and legal issues.
In Italy for example, where the inventors of the product themselves come from, Capsula Mundi is not yet entirely permitted as an alternative way of burying a deceased loved one. As of now, they only allow it to be used as urns, but not to hold dead bodies.
Luckily, there is another eco-friendly product with the same goal as the Capsula Mundi— the Bios Urn. These green urns are also 100% biodegradable and caters to any type of trees. Since ashes can be harmful to seedlings due to a certain level of PH, Bios Urn is divided into two components; the upper storage holds the seedlings and soil mix, while the lower storage is specifically designated for the ashes. In between these two capsules is a disc made from recycled coconut and wood chips that allows the nutrients from the ashes to be absorbed by the soil mixture when watered.
The death of a loved one is definitely the most dreadful event anyone could ever experience, but through these brilliant inventions, we can now turn our sorrows into a more ecological and sustainable manner.
How Much Does A Tree Burial Cost?
While Capsula Mundi does not have an actual price yet, its creators had estimated that it would cost definitely much cheaper than a typical burial. Bios Urn, on the other hand, are sold for around $145. Adding it altogether with the cremation fee that costs around $1,900 USD on the average, you will then have an economical and efficient tree burial for more or less $2,000.
Moreover, green cremation costs around $2,300, almost as close to the traditional flame-based cremation. Contrary to the traditional burial that costs $7,000 to $10,000 or much more, cremation of all kinds will actually save you a quite large amount of money.
Death is one of the topics that people normally avoid due to its negative connotations. However, no matter how many times you steer clear of it, you know that at some point you will need to somehow prepare yourself for it.
As human beings with mortal bodies, each of us will eventually turn into ashes and you can consider green cremation as a way you could be contributing to the safety of the environment and at the same time as giving honor to your loved one’s memories.