Some thoughts about “Green Cremation”
We hear so much these days about being “green” and protecting the environment with sustainability. Some funeral providers promote “green burial” as an environmentally conscious choice and many people like to carry that correlation over to implying that cremation could be considered “green” as well.
It would be our opinion that the process of cremation, using natural gas or propane as a fuel source, is certainly not “green” in any sense of the concept of being environmentally conscious. However, without any question, there are cremation units (see “Types of Cremation Systems” below) that are certainly more “green” than others in the fact that they operate much more efficiently, using less gas per cremation cycle than other cremation systems. Additionally, one could argue that cremation, as opposed to burial, leaves less of a long term “footprint” on the earth, thereby making it “more green” than the other options of final disposition available today.
When could cremation be considered green?
There are two factors that could make some types of cremation as green as cremation can be:
- The type of cremation equipment (see “Types of Cremation Systems” below) can have a huge impact on the amount of fuel consumed during a cremation cycle. Older equipment and new equipment built with older technology consume considerably more fuel, much the same as older autos consume more fuel than new energy efficient models.
- Exactly what is being cremated also impacts the efficiency of the process. The less combustible material that is being cremated, the more efficient the process will become. A body must be placed in a container in order to be placed into the cremation chamber. Some providers will promote selling the family a “cremation casket” for this purpose while others will use only a simple cardboard “cremation container”. Few things today could be considered “less earth friendly” then cutting down trees, adding resins and fasteners and finishes and man hours and electricity to produce a casket – then placing it on a truck and shipping it across the country (or a cargo ship across the ocean) - and then spending hours cremating it with our precious natural gas. Need we say more?
TYPES OF CREMATION SYSTEMS
More Efficient: There are newer, more technologically advanced cremation units available today that operate considerably more efficiently than older models, or new models build with older technology. The new advanced models are controlled by computers and the fuel as well as combustion air is monitored and managed throughout the process. They operate at higher temperatures and are much more powerful, thereby reducing the cremation cycle time as well as the amount of fuel consumed. These units perform a full cremation cycle in about one hour. In Oregon there are only a handful of these units installed as they are considerably more costly than other systems. The initial expenditure is higher, but the overall savings in efficiencies is greater.
Less Efficient: Older cremation units and new models built with the older technology, that most manufacturers continue to use today, are considerably less efficient. They are less powerful, operated manually, and have a much slower cremation cycle time of 2 ½ to 3 hours. Also, they must be “cooled down” between cycles, losing much of the stored up heat inside the cremation chamber. They consume more fuel to re-heat after each cycle and then they run longer. Most cremation providers use these units because of their lower initial cost to purchase.
If you are concerned about cremation being as “green” or as efficient as possible, ask questions of the providers you are considering. In the Portland metropolitan area, all of our “Trusted Providers” use only the most efficient cremation equipment available today and that is one of the criteria considered as a condition of accepting them as a Trusted Provider. Outside the Portland/Salem metropolitan area, we are unaware of any operators using advanced technology equipment.