11 Unconventional Alternatives To Cremation
Published Jan 4, 2021
If good old cremation doesn’t sit well with you or sounds too boring, you came to the right place.
Cremation is touted as a cheaper and more environment-friendly alternative to traditional burial. But the latter has been thrown into question in recent years. Yes, cremated remains occupy less space but the cremation process itself uses a huge amount of fuel. This effectively offsets whatever environmental benefits cremation may have.
Besides, cremation has become so popular over the years that it has practically lost its sense of uniqueness. If you’re looking for a more unconventional way to get buried, these alternatives to cremation are your best bet:
1. Body Donation
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to cremation and help humanity at the same time, body donation is for you.
Donating your body to science helps researchers learn more about human anatomy. This will help them come up with more accurate information about certain diseases. This, in turn, will lead to better and more effective treatments and surgery methods. It will also pave the way for medical breakthroughs like curing cancer and other “incurable” diseases.
Aside from helping the advancement of science, body donation is also very economical on your part. Most body donation institutions like Donorcure take care of transportation and cremation costs. As a donor, you can also choose whether to have your ashes returned to your family or scattered at sea.
2. Natural Burial
Most people equate natural burial with a traditional burial. But the former is more environmentally friendly than the latter.
Natural burial gets rid of the embalming process which uses formalin and other chemical preservatives. It also does away with traditional coffins which often contain nails and other metals. Instead, the body is wrapped in cloth before being placed in a casket made of natural materials like wood or wicker. The casket is then interred 6-feet below the ground and left to decompose naturally.
3. Mushroom Burial Suit
As its name suggests, a mushroom burial suit is made of biodegradable mushrooms and microorganisms. It’s one of the most recent trends in the green funeral movement.
The microorganisms and biodegradable materials in the suit speed up the decomposition process. It also neutralizes toxins while releasing nutrients to the soil surrounding it. It’s no wonder why celebrities like Luke Perry opted to be buried in it.
4. Human Composting
If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a fertilizer after death, human composting is perfect for you.
Basically, human composting is an accelerated method of decomposition. The body is placed in a vessel filled with wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Oxygen is then pumped into it to encourage microbial activity. After about a month, the corpse will turn into about a cubic yard of fluffy soil. Depending on the wishes of the deceased, this soil can be given to the family or to conservation groups.
This burial method isn’t legal in other states though. In fact, it only got legalized in Washington State last 2019. So you might want to check the legalities first before signing up for it.
5. Burial Pods
Imagine becoming a tree after your death. Well, with burial pods, that won’t be an imagination anymore.
Burial pods are a type of organic urn that turns your body into a tree. The egg-shaped casket is made of biodegradable plastic which starts to degrade once it comes into contact with soil. The first model released was only suitable for ashes. But recently, the company making it has also released a model that can accommodate a body in a fetal position. So you need that worry about getting cremated just to fit in a burial pod.
In a nutshell, promession is similar to cremation. But instead of using heat, it freezes the body until it turns to dust. The process uses liquid nitrogen which freezes the body at approximately minus 196° Celsius. At this temperature, the body’s cells crystallize.
Once frozen, the body is then mechanically vibrated. This disintegrates the crystallized cells. These crystallines are then freeze-dried which further reduces their moisture content. After removing any metals, the remaining particles are put in a biodegradable container which is then buried.
7. Alkaline Hydrolysis
Also referred to as green cremation, alkaline hydrolysis is often marketed as a better alternative to cremation. It uses water, alkaline chemicals, heat, and sometimes pressure to accelerate decomposition. The process breaks the body down into basic building blocks. This leaves only the bone fragments and an organic liquid called effluent which can be safely thrown in our waterways.
8. Cryogenic Freezing
If you’re hoping to be raised from the dead in the distant future, cryogenic freezing is the answer.
Cryogenic freezing involves soaking the body in liquid nitrogen to preserve a dead body. Scientists hope that in the distant future, researchers can find a way to warm up the bodies and bring them back to life. By which time, science has also probably come up with a cure to diseases like cancer and AIDS.
If you’ve visited anatomy exhibits, then you’ve probably seen a body preserved through plastination.
First developed in 1977, plastination is a revolutionary body preservation technique. The process involves replacing water and fats with certain types of plastic. This creates specimens that are still soft t the touch, does not smell nor decay, and may even look lifelike.
Though commonly used in scientific projects, plastination also makes a unique alternative to cremation. You can donate your body to an organization that plastinates and it will be displayed during exhibits. Imagine touring the world and be marveled at by people even after your death. Isn’t that cool or isn’t that cool?
We’ve all seen movies and documentaries about ancient mummies. But if you think you’re born way too late to become a mummy, fear not. Some organizations are now offering mummification as an alternative to cremation and traditional burial. The entire process isn’t cheap and costs at least $63,000. But if you can be buried in your very own pyramid like the kings and queens of old, I’d say it’s worth it.
11. Tree Burial
Some ancient cultures bury their dead in a hollowed-out tree. While some wrap their dead with a cloth and either places them in a fork on the tree or hung on a tree branch. This practice, often referred to as tree burial, may sound bizarre and unsanitary by modern standards. But it has gained popularity in recent years.
Since one tree can hold multiple burials, this is a more eco-friendly alternative to cremation. But of course, tree burial is not yet mainstream so you’ll need to choose a more suitable location. Otherwise, seeing dead bodies hanging from a tree will probably frighten someone to death.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to whole body donation and she wants to share her experience with the world. She also loves to write about food and art.