Aquamation or Resomation: A ‘Green’ Alternative to the traditional Funeral

So what exactly is aquamation or resomation?

An introduction to Bio Cremation

Aquamation does basically as its name suggests, and disposes of a body by water instead of fire.  It is deemed a more natural, ethical, and environmentally-friendly alternative to cremation or burial. It is also referred to as water cremation, hydro cremation, or bio cremation.

Why is aquamation or resomation considered ‘green’?

Whereas cremation creates omissions and uses significant energy in the process; aquamation uses a natural process called alkaline hydrolysis.  In fact, Aquamation uses just 10% of the energy used during a cremation process and there are NO air emissions.  No organic matter can be discharged from cremation chimneys, and no methane gas or toxic chemicals can leak from a burial casket and can seep into the water table.

Aquamation is heralded as the new, truly environmentally friendly alternative to cremation or burial!

Bio cremation has a 75% lower carbon footprint

Aquamation is heralded as the new, truly environmentally friendly alternative to cremation or burial!  It is likely that we will witness a growth in water cremation in the coming years.  It is becoming more accepted as a ‘greener’ alternative to a flame cremation.

Some religions are resistive of this form of disposition, but in truth if flame cremation is accepted, then water cremation should be just as acceptable.  In both processes, the body is reduced to some form of ground bone ash remains.

The most profound comment I read that put it quite succinctly was to compare the notion of whether “putting grannie in a warm bath or a hot fire” seems the best concept!

How does aquamation or resomation work?

The deceased body is placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel, and water, heat, and alkalinity are gently applied to accelerate a natural process of tissue hydrolysis.  The method uses a solution of 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.  This process reduces the organic matter of the body to the base components of liquid and bone.

Our bodies are actually 70% water, so this natural process simply returns us to a natural form and a natural component of our universe – h2O.  Some solid bones remain, but these are generally ground to provide ashes if required.  And the water is returned to the earth, where it makes a fantastic natural fertilizer!

So what about the funeral ritual?

The traditional funeral ritual remains the same.  A funeral ceremony can still be conducted if so desired.  The casket, or coffin, can be viewed and once the curtains have been closed, the aquamation process can be performed.  The ashes that result from the process can be returned to the family in a suitable container.

How did aquamation or resomation come into being as a disposition method? 

It was initially used by the farming industry as the most natural, safe, and environmentally sound method of disposition for animals.  It was then introduced by a prominent medical research establishment – the MAYO Clinic, and in 2008 the UK Cremation Society voted to change its constitution to allow it to support aquamation, as they viewed it as a superior means of disposal.  It is still in limited use within the funeral industry, although there are predictions that this with change dramatically within the next decade.  There are currently around 20 states in the U.S. where there is a funeral home offering the resomation process, and some of these have been dogged by bureaucracy from an industry resisting change.

Edwards Funeral Home in Ohio encountered problems introducing resomation into their services.

For a process that is environmentally friendly in many ways, that fits with most religious and faith philosophy, we should surely be bringing aquamation or resomation into the mainstream and making it accessible for all those who would prefer this as a ‘green’ funeral option.

What states allow water cremation?

Alkaline hydrolysis, otherwise referred to as Bio cremation, Aquamation or resomation is now legal in 22 states as of 2020.  These are: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C, and Wyoming.  This list does keep changing as states introduce legislation, or occasionally when legislation is overturned.

New Hampshire did pass legislation to approve the process but reversed it in 2013 after lobbying from religious groups.  Legislation to approve Alkaline hydrolysis is being considered in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio & Pennsylvania.

What is the cost of aquamation?

In most cases water cremation still costs more than a standard flame cremation.  Although, it is generally a lot less than a traditional burial, and can be cheaper than a cremation from some funeral homes.

Research on aquamation prices from a number of funeral homes that offer a water cremation service package puts the average cost of aquamation at $1,695.  I have found aquamation for as little as $1,295 which makes it a very affordable and more eco-friendly alternative to a simple cremation.

Is aquamation cheaper than cremation?

As mentioned above, it can prove a cheaper option than cremation in some cases.  Considering that it is kinder on the environment and provides a greener disposition solution, it could become the new cremation trend.

How much does flameless cremation cost?

A water cremation will cost between $1,295 to $3,995.  Most funeral homes that offer a flameless cremation have a water cremation service package for around $1,995.

How do I find a funeral home that offers a water cremation service?

Unfortunately, I found it was not that easy to quickly find a funeral service location that was offering bio cremation.  In a few states, I did find that an odd funeral home was promoting aquamation with content on their website.  But, overall I found it difficult to ascertain a comprehensive directory of green cremation providers.  We are presently trying to put together a directory of aquamation providers.

What other benefits can be gained from water cremation?

A huge benefit of aquamation compared to flame cremation is the potential to recover and recycle medical implants.  An aquamation can go ahead without the removal of medical implants, and they are largely recoverable intact after the process.  Whereas, medical implants such as pace-makers must be removed before a flame cremation as they can combust and explode during the high heat of the cremation process. 

Other medical implants such as metal pins, artificial hips, and cosmetic implants are not damaged during water cremation and can be recycled to benefit future recipients.  This is a significant plus for the health care industry in being able to offer recycled medical implants at a reduced cost.

The video below ‘Leaving Earth the Greenest Way Possible: Water Cremation’ gives a great overview of the process and benefits of Bio Cremation.

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 10 years.