The ever present danger of ruining the planet plays on the minds of many. Lithium batteries, solar and wind power are some of the technologies that average citizens use for reducing toxic emissions into the environment while minimizing natural resource usage. Manufacturers create appliances, homes and transportation with eco-friendly alternatives. Wood products come from sustainable forests. Companies recycle paper, plastic and wood into everyday objects ranging from office paper to clothing. There are now funeral services that offer environmentally conscious burials. Many encourage loved ones toward going green with cremations.
Densely populated cities commonly spread into urban areas. More and more land serves as building sites for homes and businesses outside of the city. The continual expansion required for human habitation leaves little room for cemeteries and burial plots. As urns measure a fraction of traditional caskets, cremation minimizes the problems revolving around burial space.
In the last century, more and more people prefer cremation over conventional burials. Funeral homes report that up to 75 percent of present day burials involve cremations. The practice offers loved ones the opportunity of holding memorials and public viewing options without the expense of large burial plots, caskets and vaults. Loved ones have the option of burying cremains in a small cemetery plot, keeping the cremains or spreading the ashes.
Cremation is not without possible environmental drawbacks. Before public visitation, the body first undergoes the embalming process, which requires the formaldehyde solution known as formalin. Crematoriums generally comply with emission prevention standards but cannot prevent all traces of contaminants from escaping into the air. Cremating an embalmed body emits formaldehyde and other chemicals. Other pollutants released during cremation include carbon monoxide, hydrogen fluoride and nitrogen oxide. Burning dental work, medical prosthetics or surgical implants also emits toxins that include hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride and mercury.
The furnaces found in crematoriums use a great deal of energy provided by natural gas or propane. The entire cremation process lasts approximately four hours but cannot occur until the furnace reaches temperatures rising as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A more green approach to cremation includes eliminating the embalming process by allowing body processing immediately after death.
More environmentally friendly cremation processes are of continuing interest for researchers. A plausible procedure includes using alkaline hydrolysis, which incorporates lye for chemical deterioration. The process occurs within a large stainless steel tank where technicians spray the body with heated and liquefied lye. After four hours, the lye completely dissolves the body and eliminates pathogens while emitting fewer toxic wastes. Though a viable alternative, alkaline hydrolysis alternative processes remains cost prohibitive for many.
Loved ones might also consider eco-friendly urns when choosing green cremations. Sustainable wood urns serve as burial containers or as a means of retaining cremains. Families find wood urns designed in a variety of configurations ranging from conventional miniature boxes to ornate baskets. Smaller keepsake urns allow families the option of retaining part of the cremains while burying or spreading another portion of the ashes.
If planning on burying or spreading ashes, urns made from biodegradable materials may also appeal to the environmentally conscious. Manufactured from bamboo, paper or salt, these urns deteriorate naturally when buried underground or when released at sea. The permeability of the urns offers the opportunity of memorializing a loved one by placing the urn beneath a flower garden or tree. When buried at sea, the urn quickly submerges and becomes part of the natural marine environment.