Archive for category Technology
Insurance adverts abound on daytime television telling us not to leave a huge debt for our loved ones to pay when we kick the bucket. But how can we best avoid leaving a huge debt for the planet to pay as well?
Green funerals are nothing new: The Tibetans have been chopping up dead relatives and feeding them to the vultures for years; sailors have traditionally been buried at sea to become fish food; and funeral pyres have been used for centuries, not only creating a welcome source of heat, but also leaving nothing more than a pile of ashes that can be used to fertilise crops. Modern technology, however, has brought the green funeral bang up to date.
The contemporary funeral can be quite a hefty affair in regards to the resources it uses: a hardwood coffin; a blazing inferno to cremate the body; land space to bury the body and, quite often, a half-mile long presidential motorcade following the hearse.
So what’s new then?
Ok. If you want to go green when you die (as opposed to grey) you may want to try these:
The Ecopod. No, this is not a new product from Apple; it’s actually a “revolutionary and beautiful new design in coffins” that’s made from recycled newspaper and mulberry pulp (I love the gold one – very bling). Alternatively, if you want to avoid taking up any more of the Earth’s precious space than you have to, try squeezing yourself in to one of this company’s Acorn Urns (just watch out for giant squirrels).
Actually getting your body to the funeral is a source of carbon emissions – but do not fear (the Reaper), help is at hand in the form of the Brahms Electric Hearse. This is the only way to travel to your final resting place if you want to be green. I suppose you could use a horse drawn gun carriage like the queen or, even better, be buried right beneath your deathbed. But failing these options – go electric.
Another way of keeping your carbon footprint down at a funeral is don’t invite people who will have to travel for miles to your send-off. Either make no friends during your life or – more sensibly – perhaps you could set up a live Internet stream. Ok, I know this may be getting just a little bit silly, but I’ve always said it’s best to laugh at death. Ha ha.
Right then: so you’ve popped your clogs, you’ve been placed in an alien-esque cardboard pod, been driven to the cemetery with minimal carbon emissions and have no friends in attendance… how then do you wish to be disposed of? Burial? Nope; too much land-take and methane emissions. Cremation? Nope; too much energy and carbon emissions. OK, how about being liquidised then? That’s right… liquidised – or to use the correct term; disposed of via alkaline hydrolysis.
There’s a new machine on the funeral circuit that will reduce a body down to liquid in about 2-3 hours. A Glasgow company Resomation make the contraption and they’ve called the process the same: Resomation. Really? That’s the best they could come up with? Could they not call it something a little more imaginative like Body Blitzing or The Death Dissolve?
According to the manufacturers, Resomation is a green alternative because:
- (Research) has shown that the substitution of Resomation for cremation as part of a funeral will reduce that funeral’s emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 35%. Ok, not bad…
- The energy needed for the Resomation process in the form of electricity and gas is less than one-seventh of the energy required for a cremation. Even better.
- In the UK up to 16% of all mercury is estimated to be emitted from crematoria because of the fillings in teeth, Resomation produces no airborne mercury emissions. Great.
- Sterile liquid is safely returned to the water cycle free from any traces of DNA. Erm, excuse me, what was that? Returned to the water cycle? Are they saying that if I choose Resomation there’s a chance my kids could be drinking me in their tea a couple of weeks later? No thanks.
This is how the BBC describes the resomation process. Now I know I’ll be dead when it happens and won’t feel a thing, but geez…
Resomation… works by dissolving the body in heated alkaline water. The system works by submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurised to 10 atmospheres and heated to 180C for between two-and-a-half and three hours. Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. The bones are then removed from the unit and processed in a “cremulator”, the same machine that is used to crush bone fragments following cremation into ash. Metals including mercury and artificial joints and implants are safely recovered. (BBC News) Again, I think I’ll pass thanks.
If, like me, you find this idea rather unappealing then take comfort in the fact that crematoria are also looking into reusing the waste heat from the cremation process to heat the crematorium facilities, thus lowering the carbon footprint. Although, for this to be properly utilized, you’ll have to wait to die in winter. However, if you would favour a summer demise, there’s also talk of heating swimming pools with this energy.
In summary then…
In all seriousness, there are 600,000 funerals a year in this country – or over 1600 a day. That’s a lot of land filled with bodies, energy consumed for cremations and associated emissions of methane and carbon. The above ideas (resomation included) really could help to lower these, so why not point people in this alternative direction when they are making funeral plans.
If you feel you really must keel over and die, then have some consideration for those of us you leave behind on this ever-shrinking planet. Thanks.
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