Eco-Friendly Options for Your Dog or Cat’s Remains

Losing a beloved dog or cat is the most difficult part of being an animal parent. Exploring eco-friendly options for her remains can help lighten the burden on you and the planet.

No one wants to think about the day they have to say goodbye to a beloved dog or cat. But planning ahead by considering the various options available for your companion’s remains can help make life a little bit easier when the time comes. This article focuses on eco-friendly alternatives that are easier on the environment than conventional burial or cremation.

AQUAMATION

While cremated remains take up less space than a buried casket, a lot of carbon dioxide (and various chemicals) get released into the atmosphere during the process. If cremation is important to you, consider the water-based kind, which uses 90% less energy than fire-based cremation, and is comparable in price.

Did you know? With aquamation, no harmful gases are released into the air.

Called aquamation (also hydrocremation, bio-cremation, green cremation, and flameless cremation), this technology may sound like something new. But the concept was patented by Amos Herbert Hobson back in 1888 as a way to process animal carcasses into plant food using alkaline hydrolysis. The decomposition process is sped up with heated water and natural alkali salts. The result is finer, purer ashes; you also receive 20% to 30% more ashes back than with traditional cremation.

WHOLE-FAMILY GREEN CEMETERIES

Green cemeteries are becoming more common, and some permit the burial of both people and their animal companions, which can be a comfort to those who don’t want to be parted from their dogs and cats in death.

In 2010, Eric Greene founded the Green Pet-Burial Society, which promotes whole-family green cemeteries.

“After my dog died, I contacted various pet cemeteries,” he says. “For the most part, they insisted on using plastic caskets, which was immediately a turn-off. Others required a metal container. They would also often use pesticides and fungicides and kept the lawns mowed.”

Eric felt there had to be a more environmental way of burying companion animals — one that also emphasized the healing aspects of connecting with nature. “There’s still grief and a profound sense of loss, but also this very rich notion of connection to the fundamental essence of life on this planet, and that our pets, even though they are no longer with us, can still be part of life on earth,” he says.

“Most states have laws specifically prohibiting pets and people to be buried together, or are silent on the issue,” Eric continues. However, his website provides a directory of the whole-family cemeteries available in the US, and some aboard. The listings break down as follows: conservation whole-family cemeteries; non-green whole-family cemeteries; or cemeteries with separate/adjacent pet sections (green and non-green).

Did you know? Other arrangements include eternal reefs, which take the cremains of people and/or animals and incorporate them into an environmentally-friendly cement mixture formulated to create artificial reefs on the ocean floor.

COMMUNAL CREMATION

Communal cremation is not only more affordable than the individual kind, it is also more environmentally friendly. The drawback is that since your dog or cat’s ashes will be mixed with those of other animals, you are unlikely to receive an urn with her remains. Pet crematoriums take the ashes and either scatter them, bury them at sea, or distribute them on designated land.

ECO-FRIENDLY URNS

Some companies sell biodegradable urns for land and sea burials. Many are made from the bark of the mulberry tree, which remains alive during the harvesting process. Others are crafted from sand and gelatin, recycled paper or plant materials, or Himalayan salt.

Did you know? Some biodegradable urns come with an added layer containing a pod carrier for tree or plant seeds

MEMORIALIZING YOUR BEST FRIEND WITH JEWELLERY AND ART

  • Lab-created diamonds are becoming a popular alternative to those mined from the earth. Both human and animal cremains can be crafted into one of these sparkly diamonds.
  • Ash and picture pendants take a small amount of your dog or cat’s ashes and mix them with resin. Artisans can also use this mixture to create decorative glass bulbs, ornaments, paintings and drawings, including a picture of your animal.

CASKET ALTERNATIVES

Consider wrapping your animal in a blanket, sheet or towel instead of using plastic or metal, if allowed. However, keep in mind that those opposed to burying animals without some kind of container argue that local water supplies could become contaminated, so find out if the cemetery or your backyard (if your region allows backyard burials) is near a water source.

Be sure to check state and local laws before burying your pet. If you wish to someday be interred with (or near your pet), make sure your final wishes are legally documented to guarantee you’re reunited when the time comes.

Saying goodbye to a well-loved dog or cat will always be heartbreaking, but by choosing one of these eco-friendly options for putting his remains to rest, you can take some comfort from the fact that you’re helping the planet.


Sara Jordan-Heintz is a newspaper and magazine journalist. Her articles have appeared in Equine Wellness, Antique Trader, Farm Collector and Discover Vintage America, among others. She is a recipient of the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalists Award. Sara’s work is regularly published through the USA Today Network. She is the author of the book Going Hollywood: Midwesterners in Movieland.

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