The future of green burials: What to know about Alkaline Hydrolysis, mushroom suit

In 2021, 57.5% of the deceased were cremated

As science progresses, more eco-friendly options are available when planning funeral arrangements.

Two that have been getting more attention are Alkaline Hydrolysis and the Mushroom Infinity Suit.

Typically, there are two options for the deceased: a casket burial or cremation. Both can be costly.

According to funeralocity, the average price for burial is $3,782 and direct cremation is $2,245. This doesn’t include funeral services.

While these are the main two options, they are not the most eco-friendly. According to National Geographic, cremation requires a lot of fuel. So much so that environmentalists are trying to rethink the process. The Executive Director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, Nora Menkin, told National Geographic that the average U.S. cremation takes about the same amount of energy and emission as two tanks of gas on an average car.

That might not seem like a lot of energy and emission at first. But in 2021 alone, there were 1,578,080 cremations out of 2,900,623 deaths. The Cremation Association of North America reported that 57.5% of bodies are cremated in some capacity. Since 2019, the organization has reported that 50% or more bodies are disposed via cremation, and the numbers are steadily increasing.

Cremation Association of North America cremation statistics (Cremation Association of North America)

What is Alkaline Hydrolysis?

This cremation method was developed and patented in 1888 by Amos Herbert Hanson. The Cremation Association states that Hanson was a farmer looking for a way to make fertilizer from animal carcasses. Hanson developed this way to cremate animals.

The organization states that a little more than 100 years later, Alkaline Hydrolysis was used commercially to dispose of human cadavers at Albany Medical College. Fast forward to 2011 and two different funeral homes used the process for the first time in the funeral industry.

The method isn’t prevalent in Michigan yet. Twenty states out of 50 have fully legalized the cremation process, but only 13 states have the equipment to perform the water cremation, according to Time. Many pet crematories have adopted the process and are more legalized throughout the states.

How does Alkaline Hydrolysis work?

The Resomation writes that the process is a gentle way to break down a body using water and a small amount of alkali-based solution.

The process uses water, alkaline chemicals, heat and sometimes pressure to accelerate natural decomposition, states The Cremation Association. This leaves bone fragments and a neutral liquid called effluent. The organization states that the process is similar to burial but sped up due to chemicals. After the procedure is done, no tissue or DNA is left. The process can take 3-16 hours, depending on the body mass of the deceased and the equipment. CANA states that since the process uses water, the remains are allowed to dry before pulverization. This process also has 32% more remains than a traditional flame-based cremation.

The Mushroom Suit is an eco-friendly way to decompose

While cremation seems to be the trending way of disposing of a body, the mushroom suit has been getting attention over the years.

Former Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry was buried in an Infinity Burial Suit that is made out of entirely biodegradable material. According to Coeio, the suit is made up of mushrooms and other microorganisms that help decompose the body. Coeio is a California-based green burial company. According to the BBC, the company states that this burial method helps reduce the decomposing body’s toxic pollutants released during decomposition and cremation.

Another option similar to the mushroom suit is the Living Cocoon. The Loop of Life, a company from the Netherlands, sells living cocoon coffins grown from mycelium and has moss on the inside to help the composting process.

Living Cocoon (Loop of Life)

Below are other eco-related alternatives to burials and cremations:

About the Author:

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital News Editor and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.