Letter: Aquamation a good alternative to cremation

For about 5 years people have been lobbying the B.C. government to amend the appropriate legislation

Aquamation a good alternative to cremation

Life-long learning is a good thing and, at 77, I am always pleased with myself when I learn a new word.

I was particularly impressed a few weeks ago when I learned the word “aquamation”. I had never heard of it, and, as it happens, after mentioning it in conversation, neither have many people.

Another part of my story is that I have been keen to make things easier for my children, so have ensured that all my funeral arrangements were settled. Not wanting to take up space, I opted for cremation and had all of it paid. Wiping my hands and patting myself on the back, all was settled. No worries for the kids.

However, there is also the part about the generation after my children. I worry about the climate my grandchildren are inheriting, so I have been thinking about ways that I could do my part to ensure that I am part of the solution, not the problem. How does this relate to the above? That’s where my new word comes into play.

Each year in British Columbia, 80 per cent or more of people choose to be cremated at the end of their life. Flame cremation requires extremely high temperatures and releases huge amounts of carbon into our atmosphere every year.

Aquamation or Alkaline Hydrolysis (AH) is an alternative to the flame based cremation process. AH uses a heated alkali solution to decompose a body, using much less energy and emitting much less carbon into the atmosphere. It is a safe way of returning sterile, dissolved organic material into the waste water system. All non-organic parts are sterile and can be recycled. The residual bones are ground into a powder, similar to flame cremation, that is entirely safe to handle.

Now knowing this my husband and I visited our chosen funeral home to review our plans. I was shocked when the representative said she did not know what aquamation was. She “Googled it” while we sat behind her desk and declared that it was not legal in Canada. Wrong. It is legal in some parts of Canada. It turns out that there is not only a lack of knowledge about this process, but some misinformation “out there”. There is, however, a growing awareness of aquamation. In fact for about five years some knowledgeable people have been lobbying the B.C. government to amend the appropriate legislation and follow the example of Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan by making aquamation legal in this province.

If I spend my time trying to be part of the solution in lowering carbon emissions, I certainly hope I can end my life knowing that my lifeless body will be dealt with by aquamation rather than flame cremation.

Gail Mitchell