If you’re environmentally conscious, you probably try to reduce your carbon footprint. But that can go up in smoke following your death, when conventional cremation spews out smoke and accompanying carbon emissions.
Depending on where you live and how progressive your local funeral home is, there may be another solution. It’s called alkaline hydrolysis, or flameless cremation, but how it works isn’t for the squeamish.
According to Atlas Obscura, flameless cremation uses a combination of heated water and chemicals instead of fire to render your physical being into something more easily managed. Corpses are placed into a contraption resembling an iron lung, which is then filled with water and a small amount of lye. Once the water is heated to 300° F, the body dissolves over a period of three to 12 hours until only bone and a brown sludge is left. The bone is pulverized and can be returned to a family; the sterile slurry can then be poured into a wastewater system.
If the idea of becoming one with sewage is unappealing, consider the benefits. The process uses 90 percent less energy than conventional cremation; no fumes or smoke are produced, meaning you can make your grand exit in an eco-friendly way; and any implanted devices (like a pacemaker) resist the process, meaning they don’t need to be extracted prior and can be recycled later.
Some families have opted for the process for another reason: It seems gentler, especially for decedents with reservations about being buried.
Because there are strict regulations in place regarding body disposal, only about a third of states allow for flameless cremation. The equipment is also expensive for funeral homes to invest in, costing a half-million or more. (The difference in price to the customer, however, is negligible.) While it’s yet to fully catch on, the day may come when we depart the mortal plane in liquified form.
[h/t Atlas Obscura]