Our world is becoming more and more focused on doing whatever possible to reduce the footprint we leave on the planet by finding ways to make a difference wherever possible. One way our industry is trying to contribute is through introducing alkaline hydrolysis (commonly known as aquamation or water cremation) as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to burial and cremation. This is one way to maintain environmental values beyond death. The World Health Organization has recognized alkaline hydrolysis as a more ecologically-sustainable method of interment. Currently, millions of kilograms of polluting carbon are introduced to the air through typical cremation processes, aquamation provides an opportunity to avoid that damage.
Effectively, alkaline hydrolysis has the same result as cremation with only a quarter of the carbon output and with significantly less overall environmental impact. Aquamation is achieved by using water and alkalinity at a high temperature to break down the remains over a period of approximately six hours in a stainless steel vessel. The result is a liquid that is free of any pathogens and able to be processed through normal wastewater systems. Aquamation replicates what happens to a body after burial over years in a matter of hours. Afterward, the bones are reduced to an ash-like substance and placed in an urn, just as if they had been cremated, with the family free to care for the remains as they see fit.
While the infrastructure to provide aquamation is a significant change to existing funeral homes, once implemented, the cost is similar to that of a typical cremation. Our hope is that one day families will have this option made available to them as a cost-effective and green option.
This process is currently available in nearly two dozen American states, but, in Canada, it is only legal in Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The delays in making it ubiquitously available in our country are a result of a lag in the assessment of the environmental, zoning, and safety issues by different provinces, such as British Columbia. While the BC Ministry of Public Safety is currently reviewing alkaline hydrolysis as an acceptable option, it is still not available to people in our province. Colleagues of ours have started a petition to implore the provincial government to make this an easily accessible choice. Read more about it here.
For more on aquamation, you can see our interview with Ngaio Davis of Koru Burial and Cremation Services where we discuss the details of alkaline hydrolysis and why the Lower Mainland needs it as part of our overall commitment to green initiatives.