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September 29, 2005 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Big freeze an alternative to cremation A town in Sweden plans to become the first place in the world where corpses will be disposed of by freeze-drying, as an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation or burial. Jönköping, in southern Sweden, is to turn its crematorium into a so-called promatorium next year. Sorry - registration is required to access Sydney Morning Herald so more of the article will be included: "the pioneering method ... involves freezing the body, dipping it in liquid nitrogen and gently vibrating it to shatter it into powder. This is put into a small box made of potato or corn starch and placed in a shallow grave, where it will disintegrate in six to 12 months. People are to be encouraged to plant a tree on the grave. It would feed off the compost formed from the body, to emphasise the organic cycle of life." After seeing the destruction Katrina wreaked on the above ground graves in Louisiana, one might seriously consider an environmentally friendly alternative.
posted by Cranberry (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Uh kind of nice but what's the energy needed to burn a body and its emission and what's the energy needed to keep the liquid nitrogen liquid gently shake the body etc ?

Yeah cause in Sweden maybe one could as well leave the body on the porch ?
posted by elpapacito at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2005


Whoa, this was a minor point on Law & Order SVU last episode.
They didn't think they would find a corpse because their prime suspect was the millionaire inventor of a process that sounds the same as this.
posted by Iax at 2:06 PM on September 29, 2005


Here's an interview from the The New Yorker website with a guy who recently wrote an article about Tyler Cassity, a cemetarian in California who is advocating "green burials". The actual article, so far as I can tell, is not available anywhere online. But pretty cool stuff.
posted by billysumday at 2:07 PM on September 29, 2005


Sweden is so progressive and forward-thinking, I fully expect them to have soon a human-powered flying car that folds into its own parking space in the trunk, and they'll park them around the city for the public to use for free.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2005


as an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation or burial

Someone please explain how burial is environmentally unfriendly. Because in my book, the definition of burial is digging a hole, dropping a decomposing body into it, covering it up, and letting nature take its course.

(It's the embalming process, which is pointless in the extreme, and fancy caskets that are bad for the environment. Not human bodies, which are generally nearly 100% biodegradable.)
posted by ToasT at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2005


Still waiting for the opportunity to be frozen in Carbonite.
posted by bartleby at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2005



posted by GuyZero at 2:15 PM on September 29, 2005


Wait, if the body is frozen in liquid nitrogen, and then gently shaken into powder, what happens when the powder thaws to room temperature? Won't the pulverized body now be mush?
posted by fandango_matt at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2005


Won't the pulverized body now be mush?

Freeze-drying removes all water, hence the name. Not mush, but powder. (You could add water for a little "Instant Corpse", if you wanted.)
posted by ToasT at 2:23 PM on September 29, 2005


The corpse is freeze dried, not just frozen. So ultimately the body will resemble goldfish flakes, or that mashed potato stuff that hikers rehydrate.
posted by malpractice at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2005


mmm instant corpse
posted by mishaco at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2005


This sounds like a good fallback, assuming I can't get my first choice.
posted by cali at 2:36 PM on September 29, 2005


I'd much rather be cremated, have my ashes cut with tabs of Ecstacy and then handed out for free to hot women at bars.

Making my Last Great Act getting ladies hot and bothered.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:48 PM on September 29, 2005


ToasT, I don't think burial is so much environmentally unfriendly as that it takes up a lot of space. (Yeah, I know, so does a tree, but apparently some people want to develop land devoted to cemetaries and get annoyed about the "wasted" space.)
posted by Karmakaze at 2:52 PM on September 29, 2005


what happens when the powder thaws to room temperature? -- Won't the pulverized body now be mush?

Not to dwell on the unsavory, but I have seen this happen.

A whole group of schoolchildren thew up their dinners on the plane. Mercifully, in the low humidity, it disappeared into powder in the carpet on the 8 hour flight.

But when the plane descended to land the vomit reconstituted.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:52 PM on September 29, 2005


dipping it in liquid nitrogen and gently vibrating it

This corpse, it vibrates?

Aw, c'mon ... you wish you'd said it first.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:54 PM on September 29, 2005


jebus stickycarpet thanks for that image for chrisshake i'm feeling nauesous
posted by elpapacito at 3:00 PM on September 29, 2005


burial a hundred years ago was enviro friendly...but now with all the chemicals and shit they pump into you when you die, not to mention the air/water tight coffins/time capsules. and as someone pointed out why waste a million acres with the dead, i would love to see people plant fruit trees on the dead, then you could go pick a bit of grandpa to make dinner. to show the circle of life and how we are all in this together.
posted by stilgar at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2005


what happens when the powder thaws to room temperature? -- Won't the pulverized body now be mush?

Not to dwell on the unsavory, but I have seen this happen.

A whole group of schoolchildren thew up their dinners on the plane. Mercifully, in the low humidity, it disappeared into powder in the carpet on the 8 hour flight.

But when the plane descended to land the vomit reconstituted.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2005


As a funeral director, this thread intrigues me.
posted by ColdChef at 3:04 PM on September 29, 2005


Alternate link from Telegraph.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:10 PM on September 29, 2005


ColdChef: As a funeral director, this thread intrigues me.

You being a funeral director, your username disturbs me.

;-)
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2005


I want to be turned into a freeze dried Mcnugget-style chicken cutlet when I die. Free barbeque sauce at the remembrance!
posted by plexiwatt at 3:14 PM on September 29, 2005


So, stickycarpet - how did you get your nickname?
posted by handee at 3:16 PM on September 29, 2005


shatter(ed) it into powder

Whoa, too cool. This is definitely the way I wanna afterlive. It's so bursty yet soft. The environment bit is just a bonus.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 3:24 PM on September 29, 2005



Sweden is so progressive and forward-thinking, I fully expect them to have soon a human-powered flying car that folds into its own parking space in the trunk, and they'll park them around the city for the public to use for free.


By human powered, do you mean like with pedals, or by using powdered corpses as fuel?
posted by delmoi at 3:25 PM on September 29, 2005


I want a Hunter Thompson funeral, personally.
posted by Jatayu das at 3:31 PM on September 29, 2005


Neat! I'd sell tickets to watch the shaking!

They should have some videos of the process, I'm sure they'd be most educational.

delmoi raises an interesting point. Would this powder have any use aside from fertilizer?
posted by fenriq at 3:35 PM on September 29, 2005


An alternative to burial: Shaken not stored.
posted by Joeforking at 3:48 PM on September 29, 2005


I want to be turned into a freeze dried Mcnugget-style chicken cutlet when I die. Free barbeque sauce at the remembrance!

Better yet, don't let the guests know they're disposing of the remains until the end of the ceremony. We'll find out once and for all whether the old adage is true: "you can't keep a good man down."

(with apologies to Robert Bloch)
posted by me & my monkey at 3:53 PM on September 29, 2005


The Natural Death Centre is "a charitable project launched in Britain in 1991. It aims to support those dying at home and their carers, and to help people arrange inexpensive, family-organised, and environmentally-friendly funerals. It has a more general aim of helping to improve the quality of dying."

It's a great source for info about cardboard coffins, burial at sea and other enviro-friendly burials as well as technicalities and laws regarding death and burial around the world.
posted by spazzm at 4:18 PM on September 29, 2005


Freeze-dried like instant coffee? You'll want to be careful about where you store those ashes!

"That's not herb tea, that's Herb!" -Night Court
posted by clevershark at 4:36 PM on September 29, 2005


By human powered, do you mean like with pedals, or by using powdered corpses as fuel?

How many miles to the grandma?

Hate to use my own joke again, but it's funny, dammit. Funny, I say! Laugh!
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2005


i like it. fish food!

and thanks for the link, spazzm. very interesting. now to find the equivalent for canada.
posted by piranha at 4:50 PM on September 29, 2005


Can said powder be reconstituted into a lava lamp or something of the sort?
posted by VulcanMike at 7:45 PM on September 29, 2005


Previous post on this. Here's how it's done.
posted by tellurian at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2005


ColdChef: you probably won't like reading this or this then.

(wonders how long it will take for ColdChef to put me on his /ignore list.)
posted by pjern at 8:32 PM on September 29, 2005


That kind of thing doesn't bother me.

You wouldn't believe how many times a week I hear, "When I die, just stick me in a box and put me in the ground. I don't need anything fancy."

You know how often that happens? Never.

I'm not a salesman. I don't push procedures and product. I provide the services that grieving families ask for. I'm in a small family business in a small rural town. We don't advertise, we don't solicit business.

We provide a service. What type of service we provide is up to you.

You know what I tell friends when they say that they just want to be cremated and scattered to the winds? I remind them that when the time comes, they're the only person involved who doesn't get a vote.

Funerals are for the living. Not for the dead.
posted by ColdChef at 8:50 PM on September 29, 2005


From the article linked above by solopsist:
As such, they shouldn’t be depressing, formal affairs. I much prefer the idea of a three-day wake where there are tears, laughter, and probably some pretty good booze.

This never happens either. Because people need to grieve.

Let me qualify that...on the few occasions where I've seen people try to have a "party" instead of a "funeral" it's been the most uncomfortable, awkward, stilted affair you can possibly imagine. Even more than most funerals.

Oh, it sounds good in theory, but you try downing shots and whooping it up next to a grieving widow or a mother burying her daughter.

Still, I have pretty grand plans for my own funeral. We all do. But when the time comes, people do what people have always done.
posted by ColdChef at 8:55 PM on September 29, 2005


Having said all of that, the freezie-pop thing above sounds awesome.
posted by ColdChef at 8:56 PM on September 29, 2005


Note to all mefites who might attend funeral reception for plexiwatt and/or me & my monkey:
bring your own refreshments.
posted by Cranberry at 9:10 PM on September 29, 2005


People have been freeze drying their dead pets for years, it's a big thing in los angelos, among other places. They don't shake them into powder aftewards though, they take 'em home and use them as freaking ornaments. Poor Fluffy. Betcha lots of folks would try to do the same with their dearly departed humans.
posted by zarah at 9:21 PM on September 29, 2005


You wouldn't believe how many times a week I hear, "When I die, just stick me in a box and put me in the ground. I don't need anything fancy."

You know how often that happens? Never.


That may be true, but my instructions to family and friends are as follows: "Put me in the ground and let me decompose. Do not fucking embalm me. If at all possible, do not spend more than fifty dollars American on the total disposal of my corpse. If you do, I swear that I will rise from the grave and haunt you for the rest of your miserable, gibbering days on earth."

You see, you just have to phrase your requests properly.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:05 AM on September 30, 2005


They don't shake them into powder aftewards though, they take 'em home and use them as freaking ornaments. Poor Fluffy. Betcha lots of folks would try to do the same with their dearly departed humans.

I smell a Weekend At Bernie's just WAITING to happen!

Seriously, though -- ever since I first read about this process, I said "yes, please!" Burial? No. Cremation? Ok, but not optimal. Plastination? Watching the Franka Potente movie "Anatomie" pretty much killed that option in my head.

This is eco-friendly, not wasteful, and has the potential for a really beautiful aftereffect. I'd much rather feed a tree than gum up the ocean with my cremains or take up space in a marble box somewhere.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:05 AM on September 30, 2005


Oh, fun! Just like Coldchef this thread intrigues me for professional reasons.

As someone who has had the pleasure of digging holes for people to be buried in, I have occasionally come upon the remains of people embalmed and/or wrapped in plastic. A couple of teeth and bones I can handle, but let it be said; I am not a fan of embalming. I am so glad I don't work in the US where embalming is much more common. So I certainly am looking forward to people being freeze dried (I'll have to show this to my boss!). But remember the bio-degradable box, please!

Since I mostly work on the landscaping side of cemeteries I certainly hope that not everyone will plant a tree, because that will make one ugly, dense forest. May I suggest planting raspberry bushes? That is my favourite.
posted by mummimamma at 11:15 AM on September 30, 2005


Let me qualify that...on the few occasions where I've seen people try to have a "party" instead of a "funeral" it's been the most uncomfortable, awkward, stilted affair you can possibly imagine.

I don't know about that. Last year, I had to go back to Ireland for the funeral of a cousin (30 years old, drowning accident). The reception was a pretty rockin' affair. It was not, in my opinion, hosted with the intent of getting everyone drunk and having a good old time. If that were the case, yeah, I'd agree that it'd be pretty uncomfortable - the idea of having a "party" instead of a "funeral" seems to be a lame attempt to avoid the grief and deny the despair that is natural under the circumstances. Honestly, I believe that the intent of the Irish wake, at least in my cousin's case, is more to give people a safe space to be emotional in the company of others without being percieved as weak - you can cry your eyes out in front of 100 people and the next day blame it all on the drink. It's something of a polite social fiction, allowing you to talk about your feelings without "talking about your feelings."
posted by echolalia67 at 11:15 PM on September 30, 2005


It's funny that it happens in Jönköping, since that is sort of the Bible Capital of Sweden. One would perhaps guess that they prefer more orthodox methods of disposal.
posted by springload at 6:05 AM on October 1, 2005


ColdChef >>> "Let me qualify that...on the few occasions where I've seen people try to have a 'party' instead of a 'funeral' it's been the most uncomfortable, awkward, stilted affair you can possibly imagine. Even more than most funerals. "

I have to agree with echolalia67 up there. When a good friend of mine died a few years ago, we all went to the funeral, and cried our eyes out. Then we went back to his house, and got trashed off our faces, and smashed a bottle of his favourite vodka in his honour. Wasn't stilted at all; It was thoroughly appropriate for the kind of person he was.

And this method sounds absolutely lovely. A friend of mine from elsenet wants to be buried in a linen shroud with an acorn on her chest. If I can find somewhere in Canada where it's legal to do that, I'm going to do exactly the same thing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:45 PM on October 1, 2005


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