Tuesday, December 01, 2009

At Last: Eco-Friendly Cremations

You may have been a CO2-emitting, carbon footprint-leaving SOB while you've been greedily consuming the earth's precious resources, but once you depart you can cleanse your soul of your pollution-spewing ways and leave the world assuaged of your guilt.

Introducing the eco-friendly bio-cremation.
WORRIED you haven't been green enough in life? Don't let death come in the way of a more eco-friendly you.

From coffins made of recycled cardboard to saying no to embalming chemicals that seep into the soil, people are increasingly searching for ways to make their final resting place a more environmentally-friendly one.

Now cremation, the choice today of a third of Americans and more than half of Canadians, is getting a green makeover.

A standard cremation spews into the air about 400kg of carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming - along with other pollutants like dioxins and mercury vapor if the deceased had silver tooth fillings.

On top of that each cremation guzzles as much energy, in the form of natural gas and electricity, as an 800km car trip.

Enter alkaline hydrolysis, a chemical body-disposal process its proponents call "bio-cremation" and say uses one-tenth the natural gas of fire-based cremation and one-third the electricity.

C02 emissions are cut by almost 90 per cent and no mercury escapes as fillings and other metal objects, such as hip or knee replacements, can be recovered intact and recycled.
Just what I've always been hoping for: Some replacements parts to recycle and pass down to my heirs.

Naturally, some object to the new process and, as with almost anything "green," it comes at a cost.
Its commercial use has been held up partly because of its cost - the equipment is four times as expensive as that of traditional cremation - and because state and provincial legislation may need to be changed, especially laws governing what can be disposed of in the water system.

Overcoming peoples' squeamishness when they hear the process described, what Mr Rahill calls the 'ick' factor, is also an obstacle.

The Catholic Church in parts of the United States has objected, saying the practice "is not a respectful way to dispose of human remains".

In alkaline hydrolysis the body is submerged in water in a stainless steel chamber.

Heat, pressure and potassium hydroxide, chemicals used to make soap and bleach, are added to dissolve the tissue.

Two hours later all that's left is some bone residue and a syrupy brown liquid that is flushed down the drain.

The bones can be crushed and returned to the family as with cremation.
Going green in the afterlife: A bone-crushing experience.

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