In this day and age we are becoming more environmentally conscious. Being eco-friendly is a choice more people are making. Recycling, electric cars, the fibres we pick for our clothing, the food we consume and where it comes from; people are being more conscious of their carbon footprint and the effect we are having on the world. What about funerals? Can you have an eco-friendly funeral?
The answer to that is yes, absolutely!
But, what makes a funeral eco-friendly? Aren’t funerals eco-friendly already?
When looking at burial its easy to assume that its eco-friendly. We’ve been doing it for centuries and the deceased goes into the ground and decomposes, seems natural, right? So what isn’t eco friendly about that? The first thing to think about is what happens to the deceased before they are buried. Embalming has been a popular way of preserving a body for centuries. The ancient Egyptians are credited for the first to practice embalming techniques and used resin and spices to preserve the deceased. Embalming became modernised during the Civil War by Dr Thomas Holes. Arsenic was used as the embalming agent to preserve the deceased soldiers so they could be returned home and given a proper burial. The practices used today differ from that of the ancient Egyptians and Dr Thomas Holes. Now a mixture of different formaldehyde-based chemicals are used to embalm the deceased. After burial, once decomposition starts, any embalming fluid is leaked into the soil which is definitely not good for the environment. Not everybody gets embalmed though, there are other environmental impacts of a burial. Trees and land also needs to be cleared in order to construct the cemetery, your final resting place. Ten acres of a typical cemetery contain approximately 1,000 tons of casket steel and enough wood used in coffins to build 40 homes.
Cremation has become a more popular alternative to burial and the misconception with some is that cremation is eco-friendlier than a burial. However, cremation is not without an impact on the environment.
Crematorium furnaces combust at very high temperatures, 870 – 980 degrees Celsius. The time it takes to cremate a body depends on many different factors such as body mass and bone density. The energy required to produce the extremely high heat for the prolonged period of time required for a cremation is substantial. Most furnaces are run by natural gas and electricity, the energy required is approximately equivalent to 3 cubic metres of natural gas or 3 litres of fuel oil. The cremation chamber also needs to be preheated which requires additional energy.
In addition to the emissions generated from running the cremation chamber, there are also the emissions released from deceased. In addition to harmless compounds such as water vapor, emissions include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride gas, hydrogen fluoride and mercury vapour. Organic compounds such as benzenes, furans, acetone are also emitted and these react with the hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride under combustion conditions to form polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) both of which are carcinogens. PCDD and PCDFs were listed by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants of 2001 as one of the “dirty dozen” pollutants whose levels should be significantly reduced.
Taking all of that into consideration one can see why burials and cremations aren’t really eco-friendly. There is another option though!
Aqaumation is not a new trend, it has been around for a while and the first Aquamation was implemented in Queensland at ECO Memorial Park in 2010 in partnership with another business who was keen to introduce Alkaline Hydrolysis into Australia. Unfortunately at that time, Aquamation was still very new and the uptake was low, so the decision was made to cease offering the service to the folks in the area. There is only one place in Australia (Melbourne) that has Aquamation available https://environmentallyfriendlycremations.com.au/water-cremation-services .
The process of aquamation is like that of a cremation in a sense, however the fire is replaced with water. The process, called alkaline hydrolysis. The deceased is put into a stainless steel chamber. The chamber is filled with water and highly alkaline substances are added to aid in decomposition. It’s the same natural breakdown of tissue, just at a faster rate. The remains of the deceased are processed, the same as a typical cremation, and given to the families. The water from the machine is safe to go down the drain, or in some instances can be used as fertiliser in a cemetery for example. The amount of water used is minimal which is of importance given the water restrictions at the moment. Aquamtion uses just 10% of the energy used during a standard cremation process and there are no air emissions.
Aquamation is definitely an eco-friendly solution that everyone should consider. How do you feel about Aquamation, would you choose it for yourself? Do you think we should have an Aquamation chamber in Queensland?
For information about eco friendly funerals and environmentally responsible funeral options, why not give us a call on 1300 043 522, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or shout out to us on Social Media with your questions, we’d love to be able to help out!
*Our Funeral Blog is a place for information and learning, so if there is something that you would like to know, why not shout out to us on social media so we can answer your questions in one of our future blogs!*