What is Water Cremation? Why Choose Water Cremation or Aquamation in Colorado?
Water cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, is green cremation, eco cremation or aquamation with a much smaller environmental impact than flame cremation. It uses a bathtub of warm water with alkaline compounds to do what would occur naturally with a green burial when the body is placed in the earth. It has been legal in Colorado since 2011.
In 2019, we at The Natural Funeral, Boulder’s holistic funeral home, began offering water cremation or aquamation to our families as a form of disposition. Our Boulder county funeral home was the first in Colorado to have clients choose this ecological form of cremation. One of The Natural Funeral’s most memorable clients to date chose water cremation after emphatically stating “I just want to be composted.” Her desire for water cremation was born out of deep respect for the earth and the wish to leave a legacy of having nurtured the land. That is generally why our clients choose alkaline hydrolysis as their final gift.
Scroll down to read more about why water cremation is the most environmental form of cremation and why more and more people will choose it in order to be a blessing for the earth upon their death.
You can watch a webinar about water cremation here:
Benefits of Water Cremation
There are many reasons to consider water cremation as your final disposition but here are a few key reasons:
1. It is more gentle and natural than traditional cremation.
Since water cremation does not use extreme heat, it is a more gentle process that leaves the body in a natural state. In traditional cremation, the body is burned at a high temperature for several hours. This process can be quite violent and leave remains that will need to be grounded up to fine ashes. In water cremation, the body is gently placed into a vat of water and heated until it decomposes. The end result is a more natural state that is easier on the environment.
2. It is an environment-friendly form of disposition.
Water cremation is an environmentally friendly form of disposition because it uses far less energy than traditional cremation. In fact, water cremation uses about one-tenth of the energy of traditional cremation. It also does not release any harmful emissions into the atmosphere.
3. Helps in conserving natural resources.
Making caskets for funeral services costs wood and metal, both of which are valuable resources. When water cremation is used, there is no need for a casket because the body is dissolved in water. This helps to conserve natural resources and reduce pollution.
4 . Water cremation is cheaper than a traditional burial.
If you think about the cost of a casket, burial plot, and headstone, water cremation is a more affordable option. In some cases, the entire service can be done for less than the cost of a traditional burial.
Water Cremation FAQs
1. What’s the alkaline hydrolysis process?
Water cremation uses mainly water and alkaline compounds such as potassium hydroxide (lye or potash) to do what would happen naturally, over a longer period, with a natural burial; our bodies become fertilizer for the earth. The reduction of the physical remains to bones happens over a few hours in a water cremation vessel that has a gentle rocking motion. At the end of the alkaline hydrolysis process, the PH is adjusted, all pathogens are neutralized and rendered harmless, any implants are recycled, and the resulting liquid is a sterile and nutrient-rich biofertilizer. Bones remain just as with flame cremation and can be returned to family in the familiar “cremains” form.
2. What’s the history?
In 1888, a British immigrant farmer to the US named Amos Hobson patented a process known as alkaline hydrolysis. His alkaline hydrolysis process allowed him to dispose of his deceased livestock. Hobson had been experimenting with ways to return his animals beneficially to the earth. The alkaline hydrolysis process he invented has now been perfected to turn the entire human body, except the bones, into nutrient-rich fertilizer. It is now legal in at least 20 states, and more states are in the process of legalizing it. In Colorado, alkaline hydrolysis has been a legal form of disposition since 2011. Clients of Boulder County’s The Natural Funeral have been the first in the state of Colorado to undergo this ecologically-friendly form of cremation. Alkaline hydrolysis is used by medical facilities such as The Mayo Clinic. Water cremation, as we prefer to call it, is still new. But with time, we at The Natural Funeral believe it will surely become the most popular form of disposition as we realize the environmental costs of conventional flame cremation. For a detailed discussion of the history of Water Cremation, you can follow this link.
3. What do you receive back?
The Natural Funeral returns the “cremains” (reduced bone remains), which you can bury or scatter just as you would the cremains from conventional flame cremation. The bone cremains you receive back are pure white, as opposed to the grayish cremains you receive back after flame cremation. The Natural Funeral returns them to you in a biodegradable container. The sterile, liquid fertilizer (a "biostimulant") that is also left after the process can be donated to a farm, which The Natural Funeral can facilitate if desired.
4. What are other ecological benefits?
With water cremation, there are no harmful emissions such as the vaporization of mercury into the atmosphere, as happens with fire cremation. Alkaline hydrolysis uses less than a tenth of the energy of conventional cremation, significantly reducing greenhouse gases. All pathogens are rendered harmless in this remarkable process. Our bodies become a blessing rather than a burden for the earth.
5. How does alkaline hydrolysis compare to flame cremation?
Flame cremation uses a ton of non-renewable resources to incinerate the body. Most crematories do not have scrubbers to filter out harmful substances such as mercury. Other harmful emissions such as furons and dioxins enter the atmosphere with conventional cremation. With flame cremation, mercury from amalgams in fillings is vaporized into the air we breathe. With alkaline hydrolysis, there are no harmful emissions, a tenth of the energy is used in the process, and the liquid remains after water cremation are pathogen-free, sterile and a rich bio-nutrient we return to the earth. The bones are pure white instead of the gray of cremains from flame cremation.
6. Is water cremation better?
Water cremation is preferable to flame cremation because burning a dead corpse releases carbon dioxide that has been accumulated in the body and the fuel. It also releases the mercury found in dental fillings, which is not released by water cremation. Burying a body depletes resources by requiring a casket and land, as well as introducing toxins such as formaldehyde.
7. Does the process use acid?
No. This is a typical misunderstanding. Alkali, commonly known as lye, potassium hydroxide, or sodium hydroxide, is a basic, not acidic, solution. When used in water cremation, it interacts with the water and accelerates the natural disintegration process. When handled properly, alkali is harmless and can be found in a variety of cleaning products as well as some foods.
8. Aside from Colorado, which other state allows water cremation?
Contact us at The Natural Funeral to find out more about our water cremation services in Boulder County and beyond.