The BBC recently published an article on their website following research done by their World Hacks team, led by author William Kremer and reporter/videographer Sahar Zand. The team specialise in finding solutions to the world’s problems featuring ‘People who are fixing the world’.
The article begins:
For decades, most people arranging a funeral have faced a simple choice – burial or cremation? But in parts of the US and Canada a third option is now available – dissolving bodies in an alkaline solution. It will arrive in the UK soon. Its technical name is alkaline hydrolysis, but it is being marketed as “green cremation”.
Robert J Klink spent his life near water. When he was growing up in the 1950s, his parents had a cabin on South Long Lake, in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. He learned to fish and hunt near the water’s edge. It became a lifelong passion, and for many years he and his second wife Judi Olmsted kept a couple of cabin cruisers on the Saint Croix River. Bob would fish and shoot ducks, which he prepared and ate by himself.
Shortly before Bob’s death in March from colon and liver cancer, Olmsted approached her local funeral home, Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center in Stillwater. She told the people there that her husband wanted to be cremated when his time came. She was surprised to learn that Bradshaw’s offered two types of cremation: the one that everyone knows about, involving fire, and a new kind, which uses water.
A pamphlet explained that this “gentle, eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation” used an alkaline solution made with potassium hydroxide to reduce the body to a skeleton. “At first, I was thinking, ‘Well, I don’t know about that,’” Olmsted says. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was the best way to go.” When we are buried, we ask our planet for resources one final time – wood for a coffin, cotton for the lining, stone for a monument.
In the US, graves are usually either lined with concrete or the coffin is placed in a metal or concrete vault which will not decompose. But cremation has an environmental cost too. To burn a single body, a cremator machine generates enough heat to warm a home in winter for a week, even in freezing Minnesota.
Bradshaw’s are one of just 14 funeral homes in the world to offer this “green” option. Alkaline hydrolysis is said to be much more environmentally friendly than conventional cremation. They offer both services at the same price and say the new kind of cremation has proved an unexpected hit. Of their customers who choose not to be buried – about half of the total – 80% opt for alkaline hydrolysis. [over flame cremation]. But environmental benefits may not the only factors influencing their decision.
In choosing green cremation Judi Olmsted was mindful of Bob’s lifelong love of water and she perceived, in the water-based method, an echo of childhood baptism, which she found touching. …… I ask one of Bradshaw’s funeral directors, Anne Christ, what reasons other people give for choosing alkaline hydrolysis. “There are some folks that we deal with that are very scientifically-minded and of course, interested in that environmental piece,” she says. “But really it’s more about their emotions at that point. I would say most of the people make that decision on a gut feeling about water being gentle.”
The above story is a personal insight as to why green cremation was preferred for this family.
Below, The World Hacks team continues to explore this preference, including describing the actual process of Resomation and why this new, greener creation is becoming more popular amongst families and how it is more beneficial for the environment too. The areas covered in the article are:
- The low carbon footprint of Resomation®
- An independent environmental report comparing Burial, Flame cremation and Resomation®. In it 17/18 environmental impacts looked at were significantly better for Resomation®
- The history of cremation and its introduction
- Legislative development, public uptake and subsequent growth of cremation
- Finally it takes a brief look at religious and cremation industry views
If you would like to read more from this worthy, balanced view from the BBC, then please click here.
We would caution that the article does contain quite detailed descriptions of the process.
Click here to read the full article