Green Cremation and Other Types of Cremation

Death is a natural part of life we all will encounter. Whether you are planning end-of-life services for yourself or for a loved one, planning for this inevitable step along our life’s journeys can help us better prepare ourselves once this challenging time comes.

Understanding how you want your body or the body of a loved one to be laid to rest is one of the first decisions we have to make following their passing. For most people, we’ll consider two primary options: burial and cremation. 

Over the years, cremation has become the most common option for post-life services. While there is no better choice between burial and cremation, there are certain criteria that affect the cost and experience of laying our loved one’s body to rest. 

Knowing the difference between forms of cremation such as green cremation can help you make the best-informed decision when it comes to post-life services. 

What Kinds of Cremation Are There?

All forms of cremation will produce ashes that can be used to honor the remarkable lives of our loved ones. However, each cremation option will have different financial and environmental impacts and memorial options. 

Those two main cremation options are heat-based cremation and green cremation. 

What Is Green Cremation?

At its core, cremation is the process of transforming remains into ashes. We can then use these ashes to honor the legacy of our remarkable loved ones. While heat-based cremation and green cremation each create these ashes, the methods they use are extremely different.

Green cremation has a couple of different names, such as resomation or aquamation. This method of cremation is unique in that it does not accomplish its goal through the use of fire-based heat. Instead, it practices a much more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable method. 

How Does Green Cremation Work?

Green cremation is the ethical, hygienic transformation of a human body by means of a heated alkaline liquid solution. When a body undergoes green cremation, it is placed in a sealed container filled with a solution that is 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide. 

This solution has a high pH and is alkaline in nature. This means that it can break down residual substances effectively. Once inside this container and submerged in the alkaline solution, the container is sealed, pressurized, and heated. This causes a body’s organic material to start breaking down into its alkaline solutions.

The reaction taking place is called alkaline hydrolysis. This is a natural, chemical reaction that breaks down the body’s organic materials. This process is chemically similar to what happens over decades following an earthen burial, which is one of the reasons that aquamation is considered a green solution. It simply speeds up the natural process of emulsification. 

What Happens After Green Cremation?

Once these remains have been emulsified, the solution is drained to a separate holding tank, leaving behind the same organic matter we find following heat-based cremation. This is mostly bones and any non-organic medical implants.

The next step involves gathering these remains, being careful to sort out any non-biological elements such as medical devices or dental interventions. Then, the remaining bones are processed down to the white, grayish powder traditionally called ashes. These ashes are then given to the deceased’s loved ones, typically in an urn chosen before the cremation process commences.

The alkaline solution so effectively breaks down the organic components of the body that there is no discernable genetic material left. Once the ashes have been created, the remaining solution is treated to a safe pH before disposal. 

This is one of the most marked differences between green cremation and heat-based cremation, as this disposal method is more environmentally-friendly than conventional cremation. Green cremation releases fewer chemicals into the air because it doesn’t burn any fossil fuels, and it’s extremely energy efficient compared to conventional cremation. 

Green cremation is gaining popularity, but it is still in the process of becoming well known. The concept of a loved one’s remains being emulsified is not appealing to everyone, and some will prefer a traditional cremation method. 

Overall, the most important factor to consider is your loved one’s desires and your personal comfort level. You understand how to best honor your loved one’s legacy, whether that is heat-based cremation, green cremation, or burial.

Is Green Cremation Really Green?  

One of the most appealing aspects of green cremation is that it claims to be a more environmentally-friendly option than flame-based cremation. It is estimated that green cremation uses roughly 20% of the energy that flame-based cremation does. 

What’s more, since there is no heat, there is no gas production. This creates a smaller carbon footprint. If your loved one was passionate about sustainability, choosing a post-life service with a smaller environmental impact may be one way to honor the work that they were doing in life, even after they have passed.

What Traditional Cremation Options Are Available?

Cremation has become one of the most common post-life-services. While cremation has always been an available method for laying our loved ones to rest throughout history, it has recently provided a level of convenience and financial flexibility that has made it even more popular. 

While there is no such thing as a right or wrong choice when choosing post-life services, knowing the differences between your options can help you make an informed decision that you’re comfortable with. 

There are several reasons why someone may choose cremation services. First, it allows for more options to memorialize our loved ones as opposed to earthen burial. 

If your incredible loved one chose to have their remains cremated, the family or loved ones will be given their ashes once the remains have been transformed. These ashes can be housed in a commemorative urn, sprinkled in a location with sentimental significance, or used to grow a memorial diamond from the carbon that is found inside their ashes. 

Although all forms of cremation will provide these ashes, there are three different types of cremation to choose from:

  • Direct Cremation
  • Memorial Cremation
  • Traditional Cremation

To make your decision comfortably and confidently, you can learn more about these three options below.

Direct Cremation 

Direct cremation is the most cost-effective option for someone considering a cremation service. This style of cremation involves your loved one’s remains being taken to a crematorium where they are immediately cremated, prior to any form of memorial service. The ashes are then given to family members and loved ones. 

Memorial Cremation

Memorial cremation is a form of direct cremation in which loved ones choose to hold a memorial service following the cremation process. For instance, a family who has a loved one’s remains cremated could still hold traditional funeral services with their loved one’s ashes present, typically housed in an urn specially chosen by the family. 

Traditional Cremation

Traditional cremation is one of the most expensive cremation options because your loved one’s remains will be chemically embalmed before cremation. Families may choose to embalm their loved ones in order to hold an open-casket memorial prior to cremation. 

Once the memorial service is complete, your loved one’s remains are taken to a crematorium and transformed into cremated ashes. 

Conclusion 

When choosing which method of cremation is right for you or a loved one who has passed away, you have many options. Each option has its unique benefits and opportunities to celebrate the incredible life you or your loved ones led. 

While there are large differences in the methods of flame-based and green cremation, they both produce the same human ashes. These ashes can then be used to further honor your loved ones’ legacies through memorial services, the scattering of ashes, or the transformation of ashes into a memorial diamond.

As we said above, there is no such thing as an incorrect decision when choosing end-of-life rites. Every journey is unique and every person has to make a decision that reflects their beliefs and convictions. 

Source

Alkaline Hydrolysis | Cremation Association of North America

Aquamation or Resomation: A ‘Green’ Alternative to the traditional Funeral | US Funerals

Resomation – Body Donation | Mayo Clinic

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