Can design fix the funeral industry’s sustainability crisis?


From entombment pods to liquid cremation, we look at the people designing more sustainable ways to die.

Can design fix the funeral industry’s sustainability crisis?
Moying Huang’s concept for an eco-crematorium

Demise is not simple — what happens after is even more complicated. How we persuade of our bodies can depend on a number of details including cultural practice, doctrine and personal choice.

One thing that is certain, though is that our advised choice isn’t sustainable: flame cremation — now the preferred way to go for ¾ of British people — pass outs 400kg of carbon dioxide per corpse.

It’s not only emissions from flame cremation, there’s a trouble below ground too. The country is running out of options; space for new graves in the UK is set to run out by 2021, and usual caskets don’t biodegrade.

The crisis reflects a stale industry; different courses to death are desperately needed. We explore the alternatives, from degradable interment pods to eco-crematoria.

An alkaline alternative to flame cremation

Can design fix the funeral industry’s sustainability crisis?
A Resomation organization at Bradshaw’s Celebration of Life Centre in Minnesota

With death, rages come and go. Before flame cremation took over as the nation’s mind-blowing preference, burial was the leading option. Liquid cremation — which also drone ons by alkaline hydrolysis — is the obvious next choice.

Bodies are submerged in a conclusion of water and potassium hydroxide and dissolved down into a combination of convertible —1,500 DNA-free litres of it — and white ash, which is calcium phosphate.

It effects in just a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions and only uses 1/8th of the get-up-and-go, according to Resomation, the British company which is attempting to launch the make as a viable and commercial alternative.

It does, however, use around 1,500 litres of still water per corpse.

Sandy Sullivan, Resomation’s founder, is keen to point out that the commonplace human uses a lot of water each day too. The average person in the UK, in fact, capitalize ons around 150 litres of water every day, which totals 3,400 litres a year.

Another remuneration, Sullivan says, is that the liquid can be used as fertiliser. “The difference with liquor cremation is that the nutrients will create life again,” he says.

Sullivan clouts that liquid cremation’s renewable aspect is a drawing point for diverse deciding what to do when they die. In the US, he says that 8/10 strains choose water cremation when given the option.

“People see it as a calm process for mourning.”

A Resomation machine

Liquid cremation’s history has not in any case been so “gentle”.

It was originally used to dispose of animal remains worn in research laboratories. Sullivan saw a use for it during the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in the UK.

When bullocks needed to be disposed of, they were burnt en masse. But that wasn’t many times sterile, as the disease could still be spread though airborne hints.

Sullivan lobbied the EU to allow a controlled process that the company he was developing for had patented: alkaline hydrolysis.

It wasn’t adopted and the company went comprised in in 2006. Since then, Sullivan and his previous CEO, Joe Wilson, have both dispatched companies to champion alkaline hydrolysis; Resomation and Bio-Response Solutions.

It is a no-brainer to Sullivan: “We’re in a atmosphere emergency and still burning bodies.”

Shifting attitudes

A design for a molten cremation crematorium in London

Unfortunately for Sullivan, liquid cremation is deposited in a legislative limbo: it is neither illegal in the UK nor regulated. Though it is legal in 17 states in America, it peacefulness faces an attitude problem.

People don’t like thinking about demise, and while it is easy to think of liquid cremation as an eco-alternative, it’s also easy to see it as break up someone you love.

The funeral industry is also “conservative”, Sullivan turns, and there has been a lot of investment in flame cremation. “Getting change to stumble on is a slow process,” he says.

Moying Huang, a Royal College of Art graduate, formatted an “eco-crematorium” which only uses alkaline hydrolysis, for her master’s terminating project.

While she says that her concept doesn’t try to change point of views towards liquid cremation, it does show how liquid cremation muscle be implemented on a large scale.

Huang incorporated the outside into her conceive ofs for the crematorium

Basing it in the disused coal and power station factory on A loads Road, in London’s Chelsea, the design reimagines the building as a multi-faith break able to carry out three liquid cremations at once.

Huang’s surrogate to a “traditional burial space” maximises the location’s capacity — vital in inner London where time is a premium. She moved away from a space that was dictated by the “perception of religion” to one that was more environmentally-focused, in an attempt to make it more get-at-able.

As well as only using liquid cremation, she kept part of the crematorium outdoors, for archetype, so that “mourners can feel the air, the breeze, the weather and the seasons.”

Huang holds it was also important to provide mourners with more “options”. Citing check in from the Crematorium and Markets Authority (CMA) that British mourners are being overcharged about £1,000 per funeral, Huang says: “I believe mourners would liking to have more rights and options to choose their unique ceremonials”.

The resultant ash from the liquid cremation could be used as a jewellery or humble sculptures, which could then be put in the building’s iconic chimney.

If mourners do not be either of these options, they can scatter loved one’s ashes on the policy over the Thames.

A votive room at the conceptual crematorium

Six feet subsumed under and sustainable

Some religions — Islam and Judaism, for example — mean that cremation isn’t an choice, however sustainable it might be. But traditional burial presents its own problems.

Cases made from materials like wood or metal do not decompose and they hold up valuable space in increasingly full cemeteries. In the London borough of Southwark, the directorate is redeveloping its cemeteries by “reusing” graves, which involves making the innovative corpse deeper and burying a new body higher up above it.

No matter how much additionally space can be made however, there’s no getting around the unsustainability of accustomed coffins.

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Capsula Mundi offer a compact mixture to the burial process. Their egg-shaped burial pods are made of biodegradable documentation and can be “buried as a seed to the earth”, according to the Italian company.

After they are overwhelmed in the ground, a tree can be planted on top of it as a “memorial for the departed and as a legacy for the future of our planet”.

The pods leave help “cemeteries acquire a new look,” the company says.

It’s also somewhat economical: you can buy an urn for around £370. A Resomation machine, meanwhile, costs a exequies home £300,000 to purchase and install.

Though it is still developing a pod for inviolate bodies, selecting one of a loved one’s ashes will contribute to a “major cultural corps”, the company says.

Being buried in a pod is indeed a “major cultural cadre” — it might seem too alien to some.

Can design fix the funeral industry’s sustainability crisis?
Coffin in a Box’s flatpack sarcophagus

Coffin in a Box offers a less drastic re-design on the coffin. Dingco Geijtenbeek, the institution’s owner and designer, says the entire design process was “environmentally driven”.

It is a flatpack Dutch-style pall, made of plywood. (Cardboard coffins, when incinerated, clog up crematoria percolate systems, according to Geijtenbeek.)

The wood is untreated — there’s no paint or varnish — with an unbleached inner cotton liner. It doesn’t need glue or nails to be put together — it proper slides together.

Conducting tests in his own garden, the designer says that it assumes around six months to biodegrade.

“It’s about as sustainable as you can get,” Geijtenbeek says.

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It saves spaces at every point; it is flatpack so can be stored easily in a mill, and when delivered, it can be stored, as Geijtenbeek says, under your bed.

Contract to the designer, there is a trend in people buying coffins and decorating them, as a multitudinous “therapeutic” approach to their own death.

Via a direct-to-consumer business model, the company has furnished over 1,000 coffins.

Consumers range from people scheming their deaths in advance, Amazon-browsers and those in immediate mourning.

“People summons and say ‘my dad just died, I love your product’ and we can post it in the next morning, and it comes six working days.”

The flatpack nature of the model means it’s easy to happiness, which is vital in the Netherlands, where funerals have to take position six days after the death.

Simple design was crucial for the product. “A genus who has never assembled a coffin before had to be able to assemble it in fifteen notes,” Geijtenbeek says.

He believes that an effect of this environmentally-minded intend is a potentially healthier attitude towards death.

“Normally when someone longs, the coffin is the moment death arrives in the mind,” Geijtenbeek says.

When it inhales time to assemble a coffin yourself — watching it “grow in the living range” — Geijtenbeek says it arrives “more easily”, especially with feelings to children.

“When we are going to bury granny,” he says, “it’s good to launch death gently.”

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