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Green Cremation

What is green cremation?

At Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, we strive to be as environmentally conscious and earth friendly as possible. There are many areas within our processes and business practices where we have gone green and it is part of what makes our company unique. The act of cremation itself is a natural, earth friendly process and we carry it out with the utmost care and consideration for the deceased, the family, and the environment, all while complying with state laws.

Simply put, the body is reduced to small bone fragments – and those small bone fragments are given to the family. The body is not embalmed. It is placed in a rigid cremation container that is completely consumable, which is then placed in the cremation chamber. There is no waste and none of our processes are harmful to the environment.

green cremation urn

Phaneuf's green cremation efforts

Other ways that we have gone green include installing clean burning propane retorts in our cremation facilities. This minimizes the impact that the cremation chamber has on the environment when it is in operation.

Additionally, we have gone paperless and use local vendors whenever possible. While we do still offer certain paper-based services, such as our full color brochure, we do make all of these items available digitally. In fact, we encourage our families to make arrangements online instead of driving to our offices to further reduce our carbon footprint.

Here are some of our paperless options that we have made available to our members and prospective members:

View our full color brochure.

Make a payment online

Green Cremation - Phaneuf

Green cremation urns

We also offer a full line of earth friendly and biodegradable urns, known as Memorial Urns with Purpose. Each of these urns is carefully manufactured with a special regard to its potential impact on the environment. Only natural and recycled materials are used to fabricate each of these urns, which are intended to break down once they are placed in water or buried in the earth. Some of the materials used in construction include Himalayan rock salt, recycled paper, cornstarch, hand thrown porcelain, and wood.

Each of these beautiful green cremation urns is carefully constructed to provide families interested in back-to-nature alternatives an environmentally friendly, attractive option that is still dignified and affordable while maintaining an emphasis on our precious natural resources.

We want you to feel good about choosing Phaneuf so we take great care to provide each of our families with options that support the things they care about the most. This includes being kind to our planet. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions on our green cremation practices, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Benefits of green cremation intentions

Part of the green cremation aim is lowering the environmental impact of traditional funeral practices each year. These impacts include:

  • Caskets, which are made of more than 30 million feet of hardwood, 90,272 tons of steel and 2,700 tons of copper or bronze
  • Vaults, which are made of more than 14,000 tons of steel and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete
  • Body preparation for burial, which uses more than 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid

Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

Choosing cremation instead of a traditional burial is trending nationwide. The cremation process releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, but Phaneuf purchases carbon offsets to reduce our carbon footprint from cremation.

With our long-term commitment to Native of Burlington, Vermont, Phaneuf makes a positive change via projects that reduce greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the United States and aid those who are without something many of us take for granted – clean drinking water.

The first project Phaneuf supported was a clean water effort in Ethiopia. Donations helped provide more than six million gallons of filtered water to the Sidama Zone.

“By providing upfront funding for the installation of water filters in Sidama, Ethiopia, Phaneuf is working with us to offset the GHG footprint of their three crematories,” said Titus Kabega of Native.  “We are honored to work with Phaneuf as they embark on this journey toward reducing their GHG impact. Each month’s commitment helps avoid 33 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere over the 10-year life of the project.”

In Ethiopia’s Sidama Zone, 75% of the population consumes unfiltered water from rivers, lakes and rain pits, which can cause diarrhea and deadly typhoid. Phaneuf’s contribution added a water filtration system to the region and community-based training in proper sanitation and hygiene. While the Sidama Zone is known for its coffee production, it has little access to sanitation resources for its 8,500 plus people.

“Since we have been using the Hydraid filter, nobody is getting sick. Our kids spend more time in school, and Daro and I can focus more on the coffee farm,” said Bogola Kaeso, a resident of the area.

Before the clean water project, his family of 10 suffered from typhoid and diarrhea from the unfiltered river water near their home.

“This is a win-win situation. By offsetting our own carbon footprint, we help save lives,” said Buddy Phaneuf, President of Phaneuf. “Going green is a priority for us. We are aware that cremation services use natural gas and have CO2 emissions, and we want to counteract that effect on the environment and work towards becoming carbon neutral.”“It’s easy to take clean water for granted, but there are millions of people in the world without access to safe, drinkable water,” Buddy Phaneuf added.

Green Cremation - Phaneuf

“This is a win-win situation. By offsetting our own carbon footprint, we help save lives”

Green Cremation - Phaneuf

The next project Phaneuf contributed to was REDD in the Yaeda Valley, which reduced emissions from deforestation in Yaeda Valley, Tanzania.

According to Native, “The REDD project strengthens land tenure, management capacity, and local natural resource management, enhances and diversifies local incomes, and contributes to local, national, and global environmental conservation aims. Successful avoided deforestation is being achieved through a series of interventions including reinforcing the implementation of the approved village land use plan and associated village by-laws, improving forest conservation and management activities, and addressing the primary driver of deforestation: slash and burn agriculture.”

“Both of these projects were developed with our HelpBuild model, so [Phaneuf’s] support early in the project was critical to making them happen,” said Aaron Shavitz, senior sustainability analyst with Native.

The current project Phaneuf supports is green bricks for residential and commercial buildings in Madhya Pradesh, India. Green bricks are important, Native says, because:

“The World Green Building Council and green building standard-setting organizations in the U.S. and the UK encourage corporations, academic institutions and governments to help reduce the environmental impact of our built environment by rethinking their new buildings and building renovations, including “building with low-carbon materials.”

The Green Bricks for Residential and Commercial Buildings project contributes to these aims by supporting energy efficient production of bricks and concrete blocks, and by utilizing renewable local agricultural biomass in place of traditional fossil fuels. To improve the impact of building materials, green building standards like LEED and BREEAM promote the use of building materials that recycle or reuse other waste materials in place of extracting or producing new materials. This uses less energy overall and emits less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In addition to using energy efficient manufacturing processes, the Green Bricks for Residential and Commercial Buildings Project supports the use of waste materials by incorporating fly ash waste from thermal power plants in place of conventional raw materials. Fly ash can be safely included in construction materials, and its use in this way prevents the waste material from being dumped.”

Phaneuf’s partnership with Native continues through at least 2028.

Water cremation aka aquamation

Water cremation is an alternative process for the transformation of human remains using alkaline hydrolysis, by which bodies are dissolved into a liquid. Water cremation was recently in the news as it was chosen by Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, who died in December 2021. Water cremation is an alternative option to traditional cremation or burial.

Water cremation is also called:

  • Biocremation
  • Resomation
  • Flameless cremation
  • Aquamation
Green Cremation - Phaneuf

Israkress , CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Water cremation process

The body is placed into a silk bag within a metal frame and then lowered into a chamber. The chamber is filled with a high-temperature (160 degrees Celsius) mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, which is pressurized to prevent boiling. The process takes approximately three hours. The bone ash is generally processed in a cremulator and can be scattered just like cremated remains, and the liquid recycled back into the ecosystem.

What are the benefits of water cremation?

The growing green burial movement calls water cremation a more environmentally friendly way of processing remains. Unlike traditional cremation, water cremation sterilizes rather than destroys bone implants, leaving them potentially recyclable, and it doesn’t vaporize the toxic mercury found in dental fillings.

While some proponents of water cremation argue it is better for the environment because the process uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide than cremation, there is still a significant energy draw to heat and pressurize the water in the chamber.

In New Hampshire, the water cremation process was legalized in 2006, but this decision was reversed in 2007, because it was introduced into legislation that was created to regulate cremation, despite the  water cremation process bearing very little resemblance to traditional cremation.

Green cremation at Life Forest

Life Forest is a unique cemetery nestled in Hillsborough, NH, located next to conservation land with hiking trails and swimming creeks. Phaneuf’s arrangers discuss Life Forest with families that choose cremation but also seek to be part of the environment. At Life Forest, trees replace headstones.

Life Forest is vast and  sits on about 13 acres of sustainable land next to 60 acres of conservation area. The cremation burial spots are at least 50-square-feet to accommodate entire families (including pets). Life Forest uses burial urns that don’t damage the existing ecosystem.

Each marker at Life Forest links to photos, videos and stories about who’s buried there. The exact latitude and longitude location of each burial site is deed recorded to Life Forest land with the names and vital statistics of those buried there.

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