Aquamation for a Greener Afterlife

Aquamation for a Greener Afterlife

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. There is no additional cost to you whatsoever.

Death is only one level on the circle of life and dying sustainably takes simply as a lot conscious planning as residing sustainably does. Most individuals keep away from fascinated with demise, however trendy demise care practices make funerals a tradition with some fairly lethal environmental impacts. Fortunately, extra sustainable choices like aquamation are grow to be simpler to entry, so environmentalists can relaxation a little bit simpler now about how sustainably they’re going to relaxation in peace later.

Conventional Death Care

In most locations, laws for demise care don’t depart loads of room for the atmosphere. Humans are now not allowed to decompose six ft underground in a pure pine field. Modern burial requires using poisonous, persistent chemical compounds for embalming. Caskets use the wooden from 4 million sq. acres of forest annually. More than 1.5 million tons of concrete are used to assemble burial vaults whereas 104,000 tons of metal and a pair of,700 tons of copper and bronze are utilized in burial supplies. All informed, burials lead to 178 tons of carbon dioxide emissions yearly. About 827,000 gallons of formaldehyde-based embalming fluid leak into the soil and groundwater yearly.

Cremation is healthier for the atmosphere. Bodies are sometimes saved in cardboard fairly than picket caskets earlier than burning. In the U.S., crematoriums are required to make use of filtering systems that take away pollution (like mercury from dental fillings). But burning nonetheless makes use of loads of power (crematoria are often powered by nonrenewable pure fuel) and produces greenhouse fuel emissions. Each cremation nonetheless produces as much CO2 as a flight from London to Rome, for a complete of about 360,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.

There are some eco-friendly choices for natural burials. And there are a number of environmentally pleasant makes use of for cremains, like tree cremains urns and coral reef restoration. Just a few states have even begun to permit human composting.


Initially developed in an agricultural context within the late twentieth century, aquamation was then utilized by analysis establishments for human stays that had been donated to science. Aquamation has been commercially accessible in a number of states since 2011. But it has solely lately acquired public consideration after the physique of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was aquamated early in 2022. Aquamation, like composting or cremation, is a technique of speedy decomposition. Both strategies use warmth – composting makes use of the warmth naturally generated by decomposition, whereas cremation makes use of highly effective furnaces. But aquamation, because the title suggests, takes place in a liquid resolution.

Sometimes described as “water cremation,” aquamation is a chemical course of referred to as alkaline hydrolysis, which dissolves the physique. Although chemical dissolution sounds extra horrifying than ecological, it isn’t notably grotesque. The physique is positioned in a container with a liquid resolution product of potassium hydroxide (aka lye) and water and heated to 300 F – a fraction of the 1,200 F required for cremation. The resolution is strongly fundamental (versus acidic). But it has the identical end result, which is a chemical response between the physique and the answer.

What Remains of the Remains

The chemical response leaves behind solely bone fragments and liquid. The resulting liquid is a sterile mixture of salts, sugars, amino acids, and peptides in water, with no residual tissues or DNA. This liquid may be safely discharged with wastewater.

The remaining bone fragments may be warmth dried or allowed to dry naturally to avoid wasting power. Then they’re pulverized utilizing the identical technique that follows warmth cremation. Families can declare these “ashes” simply as they will for cremains. Aquamation “ashes” would require a bigger container than ashes from cremation however can have a finer, brighter white look. All informed, aquamation is estimated to have one-fourth the carbon footprint of cremation. Aquamation is usually thought-about a gentler course of as a result of medical units like pacemakers (which may explode inside a furnace) do not have to be removed from the physique earlier than aquamation.

Aquamation Options

The aquamation of pet stays is authorized all over the place within the U.S., and most states have pet aquamation suppliers. For human stays, it’s presently authorized in most states, though roughly half as many have energetic suppliers. Some suppliers are capable of obtain our bodies shipped from different states. Where aquamation has been legalized, it’s often outlined as a type of cremation and most suppliers are crematoria. The Cremation Association of North America maintains a map of regulatory modifications in U.S. and Canadian states as aquamation turns into extra frequent. Where aquamation is out there, prices common round $3,500. That locations it between the decrease prices of cremation and the upper prices of burial.