Flameless Cremation: A Greener & Gentler Option
A death in the family is a traumatic and confusing time. Navigating the process all the way to the end of a funeral can place a lot of stress on one’s shoulders, including funeral home fees, the type of burial, details of the casket, etc. Sometimes circumstances do not allow for a traditional burial, but the idea of the body of your loved on being consumed by the fire of cremation can be too much to handle. The good news is that modern science has recently devised a technique called Flameless Cremation that can provide a more gentle preparation for burial or final resting place.
Rather than the violent transformation by flame, experts have developed techniques for what are referred to as ‘Green Funerals’. One of these techniques being Flameless Cremation, where the body is not reduced to ashes in an oven, but immersed in water. Essentially a Time-lapse machine, a process called alkaline hydrolysis breaks down the tissue in much the same way as nature, although at a much more rapid pace.
Flameless cremation has become a more and more popular alternative to the standard technique as it does not release the emissions indicative of the flame. In fact, the standard technique requires the body to be subjected to more than 1,800 degrees for nearly 2 hours releasing well over 550 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per body. This does not include what happens to dental fillings or metal implants which could potentially release metallic vapors to enter the atmosphere. This can become a serious issue unless the crematorium has implemented a strong filter, which is not always the case. Flameless cremation has solved all of these problems and more. It is credited with using one seventh of the energy needed in the standard technique and saves millions of board feet of wood used in cremation coffins every year.
The body is placed in a specially designed chamber, immersed in about 100 gallons of water mixed with lye and heated to approximately 350F (180C), as well as subjected to an increased air pressure. Since our bodies are composed of over 65% water, the flesh is easily dissolved after about 3 hours of immersion. The water is then drained from the chamber leaving a perfectly intact skeleton. The bones are then ground into a fine powder to be presented to the family.
When cremated with the standard technique, the ashes that the family receives are a mixture of grey and black which is a direct result of discoloration by burning carbon. Flameless cremation results in a fine white powder which can be lovingly scattered in a place that was important to the deceased, or respectfully placed in an urn.
While incredibly energy efficient, flameless cremation is only legal in 16 states at the time of this writing, however there is a strong movement forming to push this technique into the mainstream.
In this day and age where the green initiative is gaining so much traction, it is important to think about the ramifications of each and every form of burial while simultaneously maintaining a level of respect and love. Flameless cremation may not be the preferred way in paying your respects, but there are many options available to you and your family. Ultimately, it is a very personal decision based on belief, respect, and the wishes of those who have passed.
May & Son funeral home has helped families and loved ones through the grieving process for more than a century. We have locations in Columbia, Boonville, Sedalia and serve the Fayette Missouri area. To find out about how to plan ahead, contact us today.