Though many people think about ways they can reduce their imprint on the environment while they are alive, few consider how they can help out nature in death. The St. Petersburg Times reports, though, that the Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home home is offering a new service that will reduce the environmental toll that traditional forms of burial make.
The process is called “chemical cremation,” and entails submerging the body in a chemical solution that speeds up the natural processes of decomposition that would normally take place in the grave. After death, the body is placed in a hot chemical bath for four hours, where all soft tissue dissolves. Family members and loved ones have the option of keeping the remaining ground hard tissue in an urn, much as one would keep cremated remains. The Anderson-McQueen Home is the first one in the country to offer this service.
Though some people might be turned off by chemical cremation — a bill to legalize the process in New York was dubbed the “Hannibal Lecter Bill” — its results are not all that dissimilar from traditional cremation, which is now the most popular procedure in Florida.
But, the Times argues, chemical cremation has numerous benefits over traditional cremation: “no greenhouse gases released, no use of fossil fuels (usually natural gas); no need to surgically remove radioactive pacemakers beforehand; no need to scrub the emissions of mercury fillings or other pollutants; even the ash is less coarse.” Religious groups are also weighing in on the practice, with the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly calling the procedure a “moral” way of dealing with the deceased.
Most importantly, though, this new procedure is making people think about what it means to truly make sustainable decisions. Here is a procedure that is not all that different from less environmentally alternatives, but is substantially better for the environment. Even though it is something we try not to think about, making this kind of decision might make a big difference to both the planet and generations to come.
Photo from Tony the Misfit via flickr.