Is Cremation Bad for The Environment? The Short Answer Is, Yes.
We’ve all fallen prey to Greenwashing in our efforts to do just a little bit better for this place we call home. We gravitate toward products that claim to be slightly more natural or a little more wholesome, without putting any research into the claims themselves. It’s easy to want to make a difference, but those small incidents add up, and we most of us want to do our part!!
The most screamingly obvious yet completely ignored case of greenwashing is that of flame cremation.
Let’s be clear; cremation is no small incident. Cremation in the United States accounts for about 360,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, and millions of tons worldwide. A single cremation has the same footprint as about a 500 mile car journey or the powering of a 2000 square foot home for 7 days. Toxic metals like mercury, which can be found in some dental fillings, and other particulate matter can also be released into the atmosphere. We don’t yet have a complete grasp of the severity of the impact of cremation on the environment because, at least in the United States, there is little research being done.
During the worst of the covid outbreak in Los Angeles, the air quality management district removed the restrictions on how many cremations could be performed in a day. This caused the smog to dramatically worsen and the sky to turn black.
Why is this considered the green option? Because Going green sells.
The death care industry is no different in its desire to use our environmental sensibilities to cash in. To be fair, many who contribute to this problem are so close to it, that they don’t know or understand the impacts.
Being a green funeral home simply comes down to the amount of carbon you put into the atmosphere with your process.
Is there a green alternative to traditional burial and cremation?
Aquamation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, is a huge step towards a greener death care industry. It is a process that allows the body to be broken down in a sealed machine using water, alkaline chemicals, heat, and pressure to speed up the decomposition process. At the end of the Alkaline Hydrolysis or Aquamation process, bone is removed from the machine, dried in an oven, and pulverized into an ash-like consistency.
Terramation, also known as human composting, is the only truly green option for end-of-life care.
The Terramation process reduces carbon waste in several ways. The process uses significantly less energy than cremation, which uses fossil fuels to heat to temperatures above 1600 degrees for 4 or more hours. Terramation uses about ⅛ that amount of energy over the course of about 60 days, which is staggering to imagine. When a person is transformed by human composting, the carbon that would have gone up in smoke in the crematory is sequestered into the soil, so the carbon matter in each body is returned to the earth as organic material.
At the completion of the human composting (aka Terramation) process you are left with roughly a cubic yard of beautiful, nutrient rich compost to return home to the family or donate to our green belt parcel to revitalize local flora.
Terramation is a truly green alternative to what currently exists in the United States. It is one of the only way to make your last act on earth one that nourishes it.