By Mark Halper
Posting in Energy
Greenhouse guilt is following us to the grave. Two eco-friendly things you can do after you pop your clogs, from Europe.
You probably thought you won't have to worry about CO2 when you’re dead. But the eco guilt trip is following us to the grave. Now, it seems, we have to consider what to do should we be so environmentally irresponsible as to die.
You see, caskets in traditional burial grounds use up a lot of land and don’t properly decompose us in a manner that benefits the soil. It all leaves behind metals from artificial joints, and mercury seeps out from our dental fillings– that’s an environmental no-no. Likewise dental mercury vapor from cremation is supposedly a major contributor to airborne mercury. And there’s a carbon footprint and air pollution associated with fossil fuel fired cremation.
So, from Europe come two eco-friendly options for after we pop our clogs, as reported by the BBC . One liquefies us and essentially washes all but our bones down the drain, sterilely. The other freeze-dries us into flakes that compost the soil after a shallow burial.
If you still have the stomach, read on.
First, the liquefaction. Glasgow-based Resomation Ltd. breaks down the body into liquid, using a water and alkali solution inside a machine called a “resomator” (pictured, right). Resomation CEO Sandy Sullivan claims the liquid is sterile and free of DNA, and says on the company’s website that the liquid “is returned to the water cycle.”
The process leaves behind bone ash so loved ones can still take home an urn, as in cremation. But according to Sullivan, resomation cuts greenhouse gases by about 35% compared to cremation, and uses only one seventh the energy.
A resomator could be coming to a funeral home near you. The BBC reports that the Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg, Fla., has installed one.
If melting down isn’t your idea of an acceptable alternative to a traditional burial, then there’s always “promession,” from Gothenburg, Sweden’s’ Promessa Organic AB, run by biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak (pictured, below).
The process freeze dries the body using liquid nitrogen, and vibrates it into flakes that form an organic powder. Promession removes metals and mercury, and like resomation, separates out bone ash for urns.
It places the freeze-dried powder in a biodegradable coffin that can be buried in topsoil where it all decomposes within a year, feeding the soil – Promessa’s website even suggests planting a tree or bush above the coffin to honor the deceased.
Promessa claims that in the traditional 6-feet-under method, bodies rot rather than decompose, and therefore do not nourish the soil but pollute it. Besides giving off mercury, they can also put carcinogenic embalming fluid – formaldehyde – into the ground and can lead to oxygen depletion in the seas, Promessa’s website notes.
So, your CO2 and eco checklist: Turn off the lights; Don’t let the car idle; Fertilize the garden after dying.
Photos: Top, Wikimedia Commons; Middle, Resomation Ltd; Bottom, Niklas Johansson
Sep 1, 2011
Little or no energy consumption to leave your body out for the vultures or other scavengers. Too bad most cultures in the 21st century are too squeamish for that.
What is the best way of converting CO2 back to carbon & Oxygen ? And while we are about it what about Methane that is 25X worse ?
At the rate we are usng up land for industrialization and living accomodations, this will give us some land back, no graveyards, or bury us shallower with no formdehyde.
See the June 2008 story at TodoVerde titled "Recycle Me?!" which offers a third option - organ donation and medical use (research, teaching).
...where people would walk in, the door would close, a light would flash, and the door would reopen with no sign of the person who entered remaining. People would enter these as supposed victims of a virtual war between planets. It was so much cleaner and more efficient than actually fighting a war. If you have a level of concern over your carbon footprint where this option actually seems reasonable to you, all I have to ask is, "Why are you waiting? The amount of CO2 you're personally responsible for each year far exceeds what this device is going to spare the planet after you're dead." How long until these get deployed for the living in the name of saving the planet?
If talking about reality (how the world works) scares you than that's your problem. Don't blame the scientists for telling us what they know and think will occur due to global warming. It's not called a paranoia infected scare, it's called a scientifically educated warning. To deny _everything_ scientists predict doesn't help anyone in the long run, because procrastination will only make things worse and more expensive to deal with later. You can take that to the bank. I've encountered 'reality opponents,' the people who like to call global warming a "scare" who have brought up this very topic. They've said if we care so much about reducing CO2 we should sequester our own bodily pollutants (and even more violent and drastic measures toward that end). While I agree with the premise of what cutting-edge mortuaries are doing is a positive and pro-active option for those interested, I told them no as to the question of hastening my sudden demise, much to their grave disappointment.