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Eco-Conscious Option for Human Remains

While human composting is not yet legal in Illinois, there is an eco-conscious option that is. Alkaline hydrolysis, also known as water cremation / flameless cremation / aquamation, uses alkaline water (essentially a lye solution) to break down human remains. It uses far less energy than traditional cremation, and it doesn’t release the emissions or pollutants associated with traditional cremation. The components of the body which would be released in emissions and pollutants in a traditional cremation dissolve into the alkaline water solution. As in traditional cremation, bone remains at the end of the process. It is processed into ash to be returned to the person’s loved ones.

Even once human composting is legalized in Illinois, water cremation is a valid eco-friendly option. As compared to human composting, water cremation is a quicker process that takes days, whereas human composting takes about two months. Arguably, human composting is a more natural process because the provider is merely ensuring that the remains are safely housed in material that will facilitate natural decomposition and will result in usable soil. Water cremation introduces an alkaline solution and warmed water, although this only serves to efficiently break down the remains into its components of amino acids and other nutrients and bones. While water cremation does not result is usable soil, the nutrients which made up the body (aside from the bones) have dissolved into the alkaline water. The solution is safely routed to a water treatment center or used as a liquid fertilizer.

As with most decisions in funeral arrangements, there are some additional things to consider. Perhaps it is important for the family that the body is embalmed so that there can be a viewing and/or service with the body present, but there is concern about the environmental impact of the embalming chemicals. The water cremation process breaks down and neutralizes embalming fluids. With current technology, water cremation does cost more than traditional cremation, though costs for both processes vary from provider to provider. With traditional cremation, because of the heat involved, pacemakers and some other medical devices need to be removed before the process. Water cremation does not involve the same high heat, so the devices do not need to be removed ahead of time and can still be recycled or reused (if appropriate) after the process is completed.

If one of these points is of major concern to you, such as whether or not the alkaline solution is used as liquid fertilizer at the end of the process, be sure to ask the provider you are considering. Some providers only perform the water cremation and the necessary legal documentation and notification while others offer a full range of options for visitation, services, and burial.

While there are numerous providers for water cremation of animal remains, I found three providers for human water cremation in the Chicagoland area. I have not personally used any of these providers, so I am not endorsing and/or reviewing them, merely providing their contact information as a starting point for people interested in water cremation. If you know of, or are, a water cremation provider in the Chicagoland area, please use my Contact Me page to let me know and I’d be happy to add to this list. Since my goal, and maybe yours, is to reduce the negative impact of funeral arrangements on the environment, I am listing providers in the Chicagoland area which would not necessitate transporting the body over a great distance.

Cremation by Water
Arlington Heights

Caring Cremations

AquaGreen Dispositions
South Holland

If you are outside the Chicagoland area, you might try searching the Cremation Association of North America’s Membership for “Business Classification” of “Crematory, Alkaline Hydrolysis” to find a provider in your area.


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