Funerals and Death Care: Another Industry About To Be Disrupted

 

 

Somebody dies every 2 seconds. And then, even the most ardent environmentalists, undo all the good they’ve accomplished over the years when they elect to be buried or cremated.

Why? Because both cremations and burials are extremely bad for the environment:

  • Cremation releases over 800 pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment per body
  • Caskets made of wood and metal leak toxins contaminating the water supply.
  • Toxins in the body (e.g. chemicals injected prior to death—or embalming fluid) also pollute the environment.

There are 4 death care options in the U.S: cremation, traditional burial, green burial and hydrolysis, also known as biocremation or “water cremation.” The latter two are most popular in Western States.

  • This year, for the first time, cremation surpassed casket burials as America’s most popular method of death care. It is also the practice most hazardous to the atmosphere.

Which is why I am so intrigued by ecoLation, a new “death care” option being developed by EcoLegacy, an Ireland-based company.

  • EcoLation runs on reusable energy, and reduces the toxins that cremation leaves behind.
  • They just finalized a six-year R&D phase
  • EcoLation has not yet been used on humans.
  • EcoLation supposedly emits only 1% of the amount of carbon dioxide that cremations do.

Changing of the Guard: The Millennial Factor

  • Changing attitudes among young people about funeral practices and environmental impacts could pave the way for the company to become viable.
  • For millennials, the key factor in death care is cost, but many also feel it’s barbaric to have the body viewed.
  • Younger funeral directors think that as younger, more environmentally conscious, less religiously affiliated generations age, the funeral industry will change drastically.
  • A new guard of funeral directors will primarily be “options oriented”—a promising trend for ecoLation.

Read on below for highlights of how ecoLation works as well info on more traditional burials (link to full article here).

How ecoLation works:

 

  • The body is chilled in an ice chamber (above) until it becomes brittle.
  • It is then reduced into small particles by a mechanical press.
  • During the process, the body’s fat is converted into a bio-gas and used to generate power for the ecoLation of the next body, making the process a self-sustaining alternative to burials.

What Currently Happens:

Cremation:

  • Every year, 55 million people die, including 2.5 million in the U.S.
  • Cremation chambers burn at temperatures from 1,600 to 2,000 degrees for 90 minutes to three hours.
  • 880 pounds of carbon dioxide is released, the equivalent of driving a car for 15 hours.

Traditional Burials: Not Green Either

  • Most caskets are made from hundreds of pounds of wood and metals which degrade slowly, oozing into the soil forever.
  • The body also leaks toxins

Green Burials:

  • Popular in Western states, particularly California, substitute traditional caskets for biodegradable ones or abandon the box altogether, wrapping the body in a shroud for burial.
  • Toxins still leak from the body, potentially harming the water supply.

Alkaline Hydrolysis:

  • The process of dissolving bodies into a liquid that can be drained into a sewage system.
  • It uses 88% less energy than cremation, but is legal in only 11 states.
  • The idea of decomposing in a vat of chemical compounds doesn’t sit well with most Americans.
  • And the process uses a tremendous amount of water—300 gallons per person.

For the Eco-Minded:

Introducing ecoLation to actual markets will be met by a host of complications.

  • In New York, only cemeterians can dispose of a body, whether by burial or cremation
  • In Colorado, anybody can serve as an all-in-one cemeterian and funeral director—no license needed.
  • EcoLegacy plans to launch in more liberal-minded areas of California and Western Europe, starting with a  pilot program in California in 2018.
  • EcoLegacy believes there’s going to by a domino effect, with California being the precursor.
  • Some believe that, in our lifetime, flame cremation will be banned, not just in America but across the world.
  • The United States and Canada are the only two countries that adopted embalming and the subsequent viewing of the corpse as standard routine.
  • EcoLegacy plans to outsource to existing funeral homes and cemeteries, rather than establishing its own branch of funeral homes. They would finance the new machines and work with cremation partners in hopes that they would have enough ecoLation opportunities to fund the financing.
  • Like cremation, ecoLation is at odds with many religious practices, particularly that of traditional Jewish and Muslim burials, which require the body to remain intact after death.

Share this post on: