By Tyler Suiters, energyNow!
Halloween makes ghosts and the afterlife a scary, but fun, topic. Outside the holiday, however, death is one of the hardest things to talk about in life. But a movement is afoot for people to confront the unknown and give back to the Earth when they pass away with an environmentally friendly funeral.
energyNOW! chief correspondent Tyler Suiters looked into how “green” burials and cremations allow people to make sure their death conserves energy and protects the planet.
This year, almost a million Americans will be cremated. In three hours, a human body is converted to ashes by 1,700-degree natural flames. The environmental implications of cremation are the last thing grieving families think of, but it’s an energy-intense process. The Anderson-McQueen funeral home in Florida, for example, handles about 1,700 cremations annually, using enough natural gas to power about 200 homes for a year.
To cut energy use and emissions, Anderson-McQueen invested in the first biocremation machine in the world. It’s a new method of cremation with no flame and reduced emissions. The body is immersed in a solution of 95 percent water and 5 percent potassium hydroxide, and then heated to 350 degrees, speeding up the natural chemical reactions in decomposition. The process uses just 15 percent the energy and generates just 25 percent the emissions of flame cremation, according to biocremation machine manufacturer Resomation.
Biocremation may reduce the environmental impact of cremation itself, but what about the ashes left over? One company is answering that question by mixing remains into artificial reefs, creating new habitat for marine life. Cremated remains are stirred by loved ones into a concrete mix, placed into a reef ball, and dropped into the ocean. More than 700,000 reef balls carrying cremated remains are now off the coast of almost 70 countries.
But the greenest funeral of all may involve nothing more than the ground. That’s the premise at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery in central Florida. At Prairie Creek and other green cemeteries, the rules are simple – no embalmed bodies and no caskets. The goal is for people to give back to the environment by returning their nutrients to nature, literally ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
You can watch the full segment below: