Going green when it's your time to go
From biodegradable coffins to tree-sprouting urns, eco-friendly burials offer a way for those who live green to also die green.
If you insist upon being cremated, there are even ways you can green this process. One option is “resomation,” which mimics the natural process of decomposition — but on fast-forward. It involves disposing of human remains through alkaline hydrolysis: The body is sealed inside a tube filled with water and lye and steam-heated to 300 degrees for three hours. When the process is complete, all that remains of the corpse are some powdery bone fragments and about 200 gallons of fluid. Unlike the traditional cremation process, resomation doesn’t release chemicals into the air, and it utilizes 80 percent less energy than standard cremation.
While you can’t just toss a human body into the backyard compost pile, there is one interesting option. A Swedish company called Promessa has developed a way to turn a corpse into compost material in just six to 12 months. Here’s how it works: A corpse is frozen and then submerged in liquid nitrogen. The brittle body is then bombarded with sound waves, which break it down into a fine white powder. Finally, this powder is sent through a vacuum chamber, which evaporates all the water. The remaining powder is nutritious and quite fertile, making it perfect for planting a tree, shrub or garden.
If you want to make your funeral as eco-friendly as possible, here are some other ways you can ensure a sustainable farewell.
- Eco-invites: Friends and family can sprout new life in your memory with Remembrance Tree Papers. This eco-friendly paper is chlorine-free and embedded with wildflower seeds that can be planted directly in the ground. The paper can be used for funeral invitations, memorial bookmarks or thank-you notes.
- Flowers: Request that floral tributes not be bound with plastic-covered wire — opt for raffia instead. And avoid flowers that come in polystyrene foam, which doesn’t biodegrade.
- Transportation: Avoid gas-guzzling limos and encourage funeral guests to carpool to the burial site. Perhaps you can even skip the hearse altogether — a funeral home in Eugene, Ore., is going the extra carbon-free mile by offering a bicycle hearse.