▶ Watch Video: Eco-friendly “green funeral” options a growing trend

People who care about protecting the environment might recycle or conserve water while alive. But there are green end-of-life options as well.

Dawna Agosto lost her mother to bladder cancer in April 2021. “She was very strong and put up a really good fight,” she says. Agosto adds, “I knew that she wanted to be cremated and have some of her remains spread with my father’s remains.”

Instead of a traditional cremation, Agosto decided to go with an eco-friendly water cremation, known as aquamation. It combines warm water and an alkali solution to decompose the body.

“It does not put any emissions into the air,” says Phil Barrick, the president of White Rose Aqua Cremation in Escondido, California. The company is the first water cremation facility in the state. He says water cremation uses 90% less energy than flame cremation.

“At the end of this process you still have the bones. The bones are then run through a processing machine that basically turns it into a really fine powder,” Barrick says.

Aquamation is just one approach to environmentally friendly burials. Some people want to give directly to the Earth by turning their body into compost. “What body composting is, is a managed biological process that occurs inside of a vessel,” says Seth Viddal, the manager of The Natural Funeral in Lafayette, Colorado.

Colorado, Oregon, and Washington are the three states where body composting is legal. The Natural Funeral Home built a chrysalis composting vessel that turns remains into soil. 

“Inside that vessel, we place wood chips, alfalfa, straw, and then a microbial brew of both bacteria and fungal agents. And over the course of about four to six months, the body, along with those other organic booking agents, are converted into a beautiful, rich, living soil,” Viddal says.

The soil is then given to the family or donated to sanctioned farms. Viddal says most of his clients want to give back to the Earth as their final act, a way to protect the environment after life.

Aquamation is now legal in at least 20 states.