New Burial Method Reduces Impact on Environment


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.


Related Stories:

Flesh-Eating Mushroom Could Reduce Death’s Carbon Footprint

Lower Your Impact On Nature When You Die

Jewish Father Protests Cremation of Son

Photo from Tony the Misfit via flickr.


Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago

I've been thinking of cremation have never heard of this chemcial but, that doesn't sound safe at all for the earth! Thanks for interesting thought provoking info!

Rua L.
Rua L.5 years ago

What is done with the chemicals when they've run their course? Green Burials are pretty straight forward and are, in my opinion, the best option out there in terms of environmental health and sustainability - you are returning the nutrients of your body to the earth, unlike this chemical treatment.

Alice Lewis
Alice Mae L5 years ago

I have my burial plan all paid for, but would prefer a green burial. Heard of one place in the next county (Hernando, Florida) applying for the right to do so. If that goes through, I'll switch. No chemicals for me, please. Would truly prefer an old-fashioned family cemetery. Wrap me in my favorite quilt and plant a tree on top of me after I've "settled" awhile! And all my late pets around me..... plant lots of wild phlox! The fields used to be covered with them many years ago. Everything returns to Mother Earth... why not add beauty along the way.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Yes the chemicals are an several people have asked.

myra d.
myra d6 years ago

I don't know about being fed to wild animals?? I wonder about the chemicals used as well.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

Between lengthy hospital stays last year ,my husband and I saw a PBS Program about the University of Minnesota's Anatomy Bequest Program which requests people to consider donating their whole body ,after death for use in the medical school. He thought about it briefly then said" that's EXACTLY what I'd like to do. How else will I ever get into med school in MY condition?" A few days later he had to go back to the hospital where he died. I was able to make the arrangements quickly and his body was accepted. They drove 4 hours to pick up the body,called me several times to comfort and update me and invited me to what turned out to be a lovely memorial service to be held in November in honor of all the donors.I have recently completed MY application so that when the time comes I ,too,. can "go to medical school" There is NO cost to the family .A "regular" funeral service IS possible( at your expense beforehand) and the cremains can either be returned to the family OR buried at the University. I think this is THE WAY TO GO!

Christine S.

I would like my body to be used as a crash test dummy, or a medical school cadaver, or in any way that would save an animal from being used for research!

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush6 years ago

Why never quite understood, why anyone would choose to be buried, taking up space, and letting the worms and other little critters have their way with you..
I don't think, most people realize that after a certain length of time, you are removed from the earth, anyway, and discarded. If this was not done, there would be no space left, at all.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

there are people who still do sky burials. but they might not be full of yargkkkkkkkkkkkkkgllllllllblehc like "most westerners" are. vultures are alredy dying of lead as it is?

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy6 years ago

interesting idea, i'd like to know more about it though