Look, we're all going to perish. At least, when it happens, you (or your family) get to decide what happens to your body. Traditionally, people opt to be buried or cremated. There are several different types of body preparation, one of which, called promession, could theoretically be environmentally friendly, produce a tree, and cut down on the overcrowding of cemeteries. The only issue is that it isn't legal... yet
Promession, developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsa, is a theoretical process in which you are electing to freeze your body after you pass. In a nutshell, promession freeze-dries a corpse and prepares it for natural decomposition in the earth. The process may sound a little out there to some, but there are benefits of promession. However, postmortem industries which have existed for hundreds of years are not in support of this unprecedented process.
The process of promession may sound like a complicated and delicate procedure, but it's actually relatively simple. Instead of dressing the body for post-life services, the casket is tossed into a big bucket of liquid nitrogen with a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius.
The casket is removed from the liquid nitrogen. It is so brittle that a minor vibration quickly shatters it. The remaining water is evaporated out of the powdery remains, and magnets are used to remove any metals (like teeth fillings).
The freeze-dried remains are placed in a biodegradable container and buried in the ground, just about a foot down.
Many people like the tradition of scattering ashes and do not like the idea promession would eliminate this practice. However, if fans of cremation knew what really goes down in the crematorium, they might feel okay opting out.
Cremation is by far the most popular method of burial in the United States and its at an "all-time high," according to Smithsonian Magazine. Cremation is, however, not great for the environment. Burning a body takes about two and a half hours. That's 150 minutes of corpse smoke being pumped into the air for each person who gets cremated on a given day around the world. The mercury in items like teeth fillings and artificial metal limbs - along with the body's natural sodium chloride - release toxins, which isn't so great for crematorium staff members.
Moreover, what is not well-known is this initial fire does not burn the corpse's bones and metal additions. These items need to be separately crushed in a machine called a cremulator. These are the ashes that are given to the grieving family - crushed up bones and teeth fillings.
The current method of coffin burial is reportedly bad for the soil because the coffin adds no nutrients to the earth, and the finish on the wood is toxic. While the thought of just laying our deceased out to rot is alarming, there is a better way to let humans return to the earth in an eco-friendly way, according to scientists: turn them to compost.
The remains of the deceased after the promession process are put into small biodegradable coffins that can be buried at a grave site. In a matter of months, the materials break down and become a nutritious fertilizer.
If one chooses to do a traditional gravesite with their promessed remains, they can also choose to have a tree or flowers planted on their grave. Because of the biodegradable coffin, the soil at the gravesite is rich with nutrients and ripe for the circle of life to continue. The plant that grows from the gravesite will be grown with the organic materials of the deceased.
It may sound offputting to eat fruit from a tree grown out of the deceased, but the truth is, we've been doing it for centuries and been okay.