Green Cremation, Burials Offer Sustainability in Death

When is a green burial inappropriate? We’re all for biodegradable coffins and environmentally sound funerals, but some recently-introduced methods may go too far.

Chemical & Engineering News points us to a number of possibilities for green–and slightly gruesome–burials and cremations. A wSwedish company called Promessa, for example, plans to dunk corpses into liquid nitrogen, break them down into small, freeze-dried pieces, suck away excess water with vacuums, and place the broken-down bodies into corn starch coffins. Promessa reasons that the tactic is greener than cremations, which spew toxic flue gases into the air.

But enterprising companies are also working on environmentally-sound cremation processes. Resomation Ltd. breaks down corpses with alkaline hydrolysis instead of high heat–a tweak that stops tissue from being burned and causes the whole process to use just an eighth of the energy of standard cremation. At the end of the process, dental fillings can be separated out, preventing mercury from being released into the atmosphere. Crematoriums that really want to close the loop can also use waste heat from cremations to generate air-conditioning.

In any case, mourners shouldn’t consider the Promessa freeze-drying route quite yet. Clinical tests don’t begin until this fall. What do you think–would you employ Promessa’s services once they become available?AS