Cremation without Fire
by Alex Alpert
The funeral industry is slow to change, which is why I was so excited when we were able to offer Aqua Cremation at Mt. Scott Funeral Home. Aqua Cremation is a flameless type of cremation that uses water, flow, temperature, and alkalinity to accelerate the body’s natural after death process. Once the cremation is complete, the procedures that follow remain unchanged. Families receive the cremated remains back and can have a memorial service, graveside service, or placement in a cemetery or columbarium. This provides another option to families who feel uncomfortable with the idea of flame cremation, or want something that is more eco-friendly.
Currently the most eco-friendly form of disposition, the aqua cremation process releases no emissions, greenhouse gasses, or mercury into the air. It uses 90% less energy than flame cremation with 1/10 the carbon footprint, and because the process is so gentle on the body, families receive 20% more cremated remains. Another reason that makes Aqua Cremation so eco-friendly is that the impact of the water usage is virtually zero. The water that is used is absolutely free of any DNA or RNA. You could never test the water and know who was cremated in it. The only components found in the water at the end of the process are salt and amino acids. It is actually cleaner than most wastewater, and in some cases is recycled into fertilizer to be used by local farmers, making it an environmentally friendly process from start to finish.
The process of Aqua Cremation (otherwise known as alkaline hydrolysis, flameless cremation, aquamation, dissolution, or green cremation) itself isn’t new. It was developed in 1888 by a farmer who wanted to be able to make fertilizer from his deceased animals. It was first used on humans in 1993 by Albany Medical College on cadavers used for medical research. Aqua Cremation continued to gain traction and was used by many universities and hospitals with body donation programs. In 2011, it was used in the funeral industry for the first time. Since 2011, 16 states have legalized Aqua Cremation and have allowed it to become an accepted form of final disposition and more states are expected to follow.
The funeral industry is slow to change for good reason. Funeral and death care rites are deeply rooted in family and religious tradition, so it can be hard to try something different. But change can be good, and in the case of Aqua Cremation I think that more people are looking for different options that have a smaller environmental impact. Aqua Cremation isn’t the right choice for everyone, but for some people it will be the perfect one.