Water cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, is green cremation or eco cremation with a much smaller environmental impact than flame cremation. It uses mainly water and alkaline compounds to do what would occur naturally with a green burial when the body is placed in the earth. It’s been legal in Colorado since 2010.
In 2019, we at The Natural Funeral, Boulder’s holistic funeral home began offering alkaline hydrolysis 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 compost.” Her desire for water cremation was born of a deep respect for the earth and a wish to leave a legacy of having nurtured the land. That is generally why The Natural Funeral 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.
Water Cremation FAQ’s
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 2010. 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 form 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.
Contact us at The Natural Funeral to find out more about our water cremation services in Boulder county and beyond.