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Jaffrey / peterborough

Funeral homes promote natural form of cremation

‘Alkaline hydrolysis’ seen as eco-friendly alternative to flame-based process

Just as people are moving to lower-emission combustion engines and alternative energy sources, two local funeral homes are offering families an earth-friendly alternative to traditional cremation.

Cournoyer Funeral Home and Cremation Center of Jaffrey and Jellison Funeral Home of Peterborough are partnering with Natural Green Cremation of Searsport, Maine, to offer a new form of cremation known as alkaline hydrolysis, or biocremation, that cuts natural gas usage by 90 percent and electricity usage by 66 percent, according to Mark Cournoyer of Cournoyer Funeral Home.

Traditional cremation processes rely heavily on fossil fuels and high heat for reducing a human body to ashes, but alkaline hydrolysis does not. The total carbon footprint of the alkaline process is 18 times less than that of a flame-based cremation, Cournoyer said in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript last week.

Alkaline hydrolysis is not legal in the state of New Hampshire, but there is a proposed bill in the N.H. House of Representatives that establishes procedures for the use of alkaline hydrolysis for the disposal of human remains. Until it becomes law, though, Cournoyer and Jellison must travel outside New Hampshire’s boundaries to Searsport for families who choose the service for a loved one.

So far neither funeral home has been asked to arrange a natural cremation, but people are definitely talking about the eco-friendly alternative, said Cournoyer and Jellison owner Julie Thibault.

“I definitely think people are looking at how we impact the environment, how we live and commute, so maybe they’ll began looking more at alkaline hydrolysis, too,” Cournoyer said.

According to a press release issued by Cournoyer Funeral Home, “Alkaline hydrolysis converts the tissues and cells of the human body into a neutral watery solution of micromolecules, and leaves behind the bone structure consisting of mineral compounds, such as calcium and phosphates.”

Those ashes are what families are accustomed to scattering or memorializing in an urn or cemetery, Cournoyer said, explaining that the end result of biocremation and flame-based cremation are essentially the same.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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