What is the Difference Between Green And Traditional Cremation?

Green Cremation Article. Photo of trees on a hill. Article by Pulvis Art Urns

We are at a point now where there is no doubt about the continued popularisation of cremation. According to the 2019 National Funeral Directors Association report on burial and cremation, by 2035 adults over 65 are projected to outnumber the children in the USA. This rise is concurrent with the fast-growing rates of cremation, which, for the fourth consecutive year, has outpaced the rate of the traditional burial.

The main reasons for this rise are the lower cost of cremation practices, the perceived environmental impact and the weakening of traditional religion. 

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But how many of you know that there is an alternative to the traditional cremation, called green (bio) cremation? What is green cremation and what are the pros and cons of it - learn more in the next rows...

What is green cremation?

Green Cremation is an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional cremation or casket burial. It is a quiet process of dissolving the body to its basic elements by using potassium hydroxide (type of acid) and water. Also called bio cremation or aquamation, the process includes heating up the solution, mentioned before to more than 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The whole process takes approximately 3 hours and it is said to be 4-5 times more energy-efficient than the traditional cremation. 

This process is considered more environmentally friendly than traditional cremation because it emits fewer greenhouse gases and does not produce toxic chemicals like mercury from dental fillings.

Green cremation is not new 

The first patent for bio cremation was issued in 1888 to Amos Hobson, however, cremation received almost no attention until the late 1990's when the University of Florida started using it for research purposes. The commercial use of bio cremation is legal in more than fifteen states, but in many it is forbidden for public use. According to our research bio cremation is legal in  :

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

Costs of cremation 

The average cost of the green cremation seems to be approximately similar to the traditional one. So if the flame cremation ranges between $ 1,000 to $ 4,000, the green one ranges between $ 1,700 to around $ 4,500. You will find the cost of both procedures cheaper than the standard burial where just the cost of the casket could cost as the whole price of the cremation. There are also cemetery charges, which can make burial almost unbearable. 

Wooden Cremation Urns for Ashes by Pulvis Art Urns

Is green cremation actually environmentally friendly?

Traditional cremation, on the other hand, involves the burning of the body using fossil fuels such as natural gas or propane. While it is still a widely accepted practice, traditional cremation does produce emissions that contribute to air pollution and climate change.

Besides the fact that bio cremation is almost 5 time more energy efficient than the traditional cremation, it also has relatively low carbon footprint.  

When the body is prepared for cremation, one of the first steps is to remove all the medical devices such as prosthetics and pacemakers. Those devices are usually recycled by specialised companies. This is also relevant for the traditional cremation. Operators in modern crematoriums scan the exhaust from the machine for harmful emissions, while the alkaline hydrolysis process could bypass the concern entirely.

As we know the traditional cremation uses heat to help the process of degradation the body, but the bio cremation follows a completely different approach – returning the body to its natural form, dissolved in water. Logically, this type of cremation process does not pollute the environment as much as the flame-based cremation. 

Can cremains from green cremation be buried  or scattered?

It is still hard to determine what the long-term effects of alkaline hydrolysis on water and soil might be. So far, there has been no problems, which suggests that ashes from green cremation may be just as acceptable to bury or scatter as the remains of flame-cremation. Remember that countries often have rules for the placement of ashes, especially near rivers or lakes. People who want to bury or scatter ashes on private property should get a permission from the property owner or contact the local authorities.

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Cons of green cremation 

While the green cremation is getting more popular, it has it's own negative sides as well.

One of them is the fact that once cremation is done, you will have to wait a certain time for the technicians, who do the cremation to extract the bones and dry them. The bones are soft and easy to crush into ashes, somewhat like the remains of a traditional cremation, but a bit heavier, because green cremation preserves a bit more of the bone structure than the traditional cremation. 

The  cremation ashes can also be kept in a cremation urn. As a matter of facts more and more people prefer keeping the ashes of their loved ones in a urn, close to them at home or a garden. 

The other negative side of the bio cremation is that green crematoriums are yet not that popular worldwide and this can prolong the planning of the service. 

Since green cremation may produce more ashes, families could need to buy a bigger urn than the standard  adult urn that holds 180 cubic inches. Choosing a set of urns (adult size urn & keepsake) , like the ones we offer is also a great idea. 

Aquamation explained

Aquamation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis or water cremation, is a form of cremation that uses water, heat, and alkaline chemicals to break down a body's organic matter. In this process, the body is placed into a special machine called an aquamation chamber, which is filled with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide. The mixture is heated to a high temperature and pressure, causing the body to dissolve into its basic chemical components.

The remains of the aquamation process are similar in appearance to those produced by traditional cremation and can be returned to the family in an urn or used for other memorialization purposes.
Aquamation - Pulvis Art Urns


Choosing between traditional and green cremation

Nowadays, many people choose cremation as a preferred way to handle theirs or their loved one's cremains. Hopefully, technologies in the industry allows new options, that makes things easier for the families. Choosing between the two options is a personal decision that everyone should make on their own. We suggest that you also contact your funeral director for more detailed information.

Ultimately, the choice between green and traditional cremation is a personal one and may depend on a variety of factors, including environmental concerns, cultural or religious beliefs, and cost. It's important to do your research and consult with your loved ones and funeral director to make the decision that feels right for you and your family.

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