When it comes to cremation, some are divided on whether or not it is a green alternative to modern burial practices. On the one hand, it uses considerably less resources than standard ground interment. But, on the other hand, it is not without its environmental drawbacks.
First of all, the cremation process requires burning fossil fuels. In addition, the age and efficiency of a cremation facility also contributes to its negative environmental impact. The older a cremation facility, the more likely it is to be inefficient and release more pollutants.
The Future of Green Cremation
It is true that the cremation process can release things like mercury into the air when a person with mercury dental fillings is cremated. However, mercury pollution during the cremation process may be soon be a thing of the past as filtration devices become available as early as 2011.
Additionally the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) is working with the Green Burial Council to establish more ecologically friendly cremation standards. These standards may include the following options for consumers:
• The option to recycle medical parts
• The option to purchase more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly cremation urns
• The option to participate in disposition programs that offer consumers a way to offset the impact of cremation
Other pioneers of green cremation are also at work to find more environmentally sound methods. One company has developed a process that breaks down the deceased’s body using alkaline hydrolysis as an alternative to high heat. In this process the tissue is not burned, and the process only requires one-eighth the amount of energy required by current cremation practices. Because fillings can be separated from the rest of the remains, this new process can also prevent the release of mercury into the atmosphere. Finally, some crematoriums are finding ways to harness waste heat from the cremation process to power air-conditioning units.
How to Practice Green Cremation Now
While many of these options are not yet available or are available only in limited areas, there are still ways that consumers can make the move toward green cremation. One of the easiest ways to do this is to opt for a green cremation urn.
Traditional cremation urns are not made to biodegrade naturally, but biodegradable urns are a green alternative growing in popularity. Under natural conditions, these urns will biodegrade safely. They can even be used to scatter ashes in water, because they dissolve within a matter of minutes. Other urns made of fibers may take longer to degrade, but they are still quite suitable for burial in water. Before selecting a biodegradable urn for burial, you should check with the cemetery to see whether outer containers are required.