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Is Cremation Bad for the Environment? September 10, 2020

Field of grain

At the Cremation Society of Greater Cincinnati, it is our mission to promote the benefits of cremation while educating those who would like more information about the process. Even though cremation has become more popular than traditional funerals and burials, there are still many misperceptions and questions about cremations. Many of those questions surround whether or not cremation is a more “environmentally friendly” choice when compared to a traditional burial.

People generally fall into two camps when it comes to cremation and whether it is considered “green”. Either they believe, “Absolutely not. Cremating a body pollutes the air and uses natural resources”. Others believe “Absolutely yes! Less space is used in a cremation opposed to a traditional burial.

The facts are probably somewhere in between.

A traditional burial involves the purchase and transport of a casket and burial vault and the energy and resources involved in both. In a traditional burial, the body is embalmed with chemicals which may eventually find their way into the ground. A burial plot itself, uses ground space that could be used for better purposes. Even a traditional burial marker can be expensive to produce and use natural resources.

A cremation on the other hand, takes a significant amount of energy to reduce a body to its elemental form. In cremations involving those with mercury dental fillings, those elements can be dispersed into the air. This is an older dental procedure that will eventually no longer become an issue. Older furnaces used for cremation can be much less energy efficient and may not have the filters to properly scrub any emissions.

The bottom line is that both choices can be greener, based on choices the family makes and how “green” they want final services to be. Some families have decided to conduct a virtual final service to totally eliminate the need for guests to drive or fly to final expenses. It depends on your desires and goals.

A cremation can be made more environmentally friendly by using a container to cremate the body that will have minimal environmental impact. Organic urns can be chosen to contain the ashes, where they either can be buried or ashes spread in a manner the family desires.

Those considering a dramatically environmentally efficient disposal of remains can now also consider alkaline hydrolysis, also referred to as bio-cremation. It is also known as water resolution. This is a process where the body is placed into a chamber that is subjected to water, heat, pressure and potassium hydroxide. In a few hours, basically the time it would take for cremation, the body is reduced to a white “ash”. This process results in 25-30% more cremains than a traditional furnace cremation.

This process uses much less energy and produces less emissions than a traditional cremation.The cost of nio-cremation is expected to fall to that of a traditional cremation as the process grows in popularity.

Whatever option you choose, there are always ways to make it just a bit more environmentally friendly. Contact us at the Cremation Society of Greater Cincinnati to see how we can best serve you.

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