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Desmond Tutu’s Funeral Featured Plain Pine Coffin and Aquamation
Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, Funeral Expert Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, Funeral Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Albuquerque, NM
Monday, January 3, 2022

Wood Caskets

Wood caskets built by Fathers Building Futures

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral made several environmentally supportive statements. His coffin was a plain unvarnished pine box with rope handles. He requested no extravagant spending on the services. And he taught the world about alkaline hydrolysis, a water-based disposition method also known as Aquamation. It was his requested disposition method, before his remaining bones were interred in St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa.

Tutu campaigned for gentler stewardship of the Earth and fought against climate change. His choice of Aquamation, which uses a fraction of the energy used in flame-based cremation, prompted widespread coverage of this disposition technology. News outlets worldwide, including NPR, The Washington Post, and The Guardian in the UK, ran stories explaining the process.

A natural gas-powered flame cremation of an average size person generates 532 pounds of CO², a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Multiply that figure by more than 1.8 million, the number of people in the U.S. cremated in 2020, and you’ve got a significant carbon footprint!

Alkaline hydrolysis is essentially an accelerated version of what takes place during natural decomposition. Water, elevated temperature, and alkalinity are used to speed the process of reducing tissue to the basic building blocks of life: nucleic acids, proteins, lipids (fats) and glycans (sugars). The process generates a sterile coffee colored liquid, free of DNA, RNA and any drugs that were in the body. The remaining fluid, pH-balanced to be slightly alkaline, is beneficial for municipal sewage systems, which regularly deal with acidic effluent.

Some interesting facts:

  • Alkaline hydrolysis uses up to 90% less energy than flame-based cremation.
  • Unlike flame-based cremation, these systems generate zero greenhouse gasses.
  • Alkaline hydrolysis returns 20% more cremated remains to the family than flame cremation.
  • When given a choice with no price difference, 80% of families choose alkaline hydrolysis over flame cremation.
Low Pressure Alkaline Hydrolysis System

Low pressure alkaline hydrolysis system from Bio-Response Solutions.

There are two types of alkaline hydrolysis systems: high-temperature/pressure and low-temperature/pressure. Both can handle a body of up to 500 pounds. The body is placed in the tank, where the tissue totally dissolves. Remaining bones are processed like the bones left after fire cremation, in a cremulator (basically a blender for bones). Both systems take longer to process a body than fire-based cremation.

High-temperature Aquamation systems operate at 300 degrees Fahrenheit at 65 PSI (pounds per square inch). It takes 4-6 hours to process the body with this system, enabling a funeral home to handle seven bodies every two days. Low-temperature systems operate at 200 degrees at atmospheric pressure – no added PSI. It takes 14-16 hours to complete the process with this system, enabling a funeral home to handle three bodies every two days.

Learn more about alkaline hydrolysis in this Family Plot Blog post. If you’d like to get a brochure about Aquamation, email your mailing address to [email protected]. You can also learn more about alkaline hydrolysis and which states in the US allow the process at www.AquamationInfo.com.

Watch This Video!

This video with Samantha Sieber of BioResponse Solutions shows how the alkaline hydrolysis system works.

Gail Rubin, CT, is author and host of the award-winning book and television series, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips, and KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die.

Rubin is a Certified Thanatologist (that's a death educator) and a popular speaker who uses humor and films to get the end-of-life and funeral planning conversation started. She "knocked 'em dead" with her TEDx talk, A Good Goodbye. She provides continuing education credit classes for attorneys, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice workers, financial planners, funeral directors and other professionals. She's a Certified Funeral Celebrant and funeral planning consultant who has been interviewed in national and local print, broadcast and online media.

Known as The Doyenne of Death®, she is the event coordinator of the Before I Die NM Festival. She also hosts A Good Goodbye Internet radio show and produces Mortality Minute radio and online video spots. Her YouTube Channel features more than 450 videos!

Rubin is a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, Toastmasters International and the National Speakers Association New Mexico Chapter. Her speaking profile is available at eSpeakers.com.

Gail Rubin has been interviewed about funeral planning issues in national and local broadcast, print and online media. Outlets include The Huffington Post, Money Magazine, Kiplinger, CBS Radio News, WGN-TV,  and local affiliates for NPR, PBS, FOX, ABC-TV, CBS-TV and NBC-TV. Albuquerque Business First named her as one of their 2019 Women of Influence.

Sign up for a free planning form and occasional informative newsletter at her website, AGoodGoodbye.com.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Gail Rubin
Group: A Good Goodbye
Dateline: Albuquerque, NM United States
Direct Phone: 505-265-7215
Cell Phone: 505-363-7514
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