STILLWATER — Going green in the cremation business is fast becoming the method of choice.

Of families that choose cremation, 80 percent “go green” as opposed to the traditional flame method, according to Jason Bradshaw, chief operating officer and vice president of Bradshaw Funeral and Cremation Services.

Green cremation is described as a gentler, more eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation or casket burials. The process uses water and potassium hydroxide to reduce the body to basic bone ash. The technology was pioneered by Mayo Clinic as an environmentally friendly alternative for people who donated their bodies to science at the clinic’s medical school.

Bradshaw became the first and only firm in Minnesota to offer the service almost a year ago. The response has exceeded their expectations, Bradshaw said, with over 200 families selecting the option.

“People like the simplicity of cremation but do not like the flame part,” he said. “The process also has a greatly reduced carbon footprint, uses one-seventh the energy and emits no airborne mercury emissions from dental fillings.”

The mercury part is a particular plus to state agencies like the Metropolitan Council, Bradshaw noted. “This process allows us to recycle the mercury so it does not go into the environment. Instead it goes to a metal recycler. Another advantage is we do not have to remove pacemakers or implants prior to the process. For some families, that is something they prefer.”

The chemical process mimics nature but works faster. Normally a body takes about 25 years to decompose after burial. Green cremation accelerates this natural process to two to three hours in a quiet, controlled environment at Bradshaw’s Celebration of Life Center in Stillwater.

Bradshaw, who is the son of the founder, said other funeral homes in the state seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach to biocremation. “There is interest, but it takes time. Funeral homes are watching what we’re doing to see how the public embraces it before they invest in the equipment.”

In 2006, Minnesota was the first of only 13 states to approve the process with more expected this year.

The cost is $2,395 for either cremation method. “We present both options to families and price them the same. We want to take variables out of the decision to know how people really feel about it,” he said.

The percentage of people being cremated has changed significantly in the last 20 years, according to Bradshaw. “Just over 50 percent of people in the Twin Cities are choosing cremation. This is a big change considering in 1990 around 15 percent of people in the state were choosing it.”

Acceptance by the Catholic Church has likely aided the increase. Bradshaw said the church allows cremation but opposes scattering the ashes. Ashes are to be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

Economics plays a role, too. There is no casket or burial vault to buy so cremation is more affordable.

“It has been well received and we are very pleased about that,” Bradshaw noted. “Most interesting to us is people who say they prefer cremation but don’t like the flame part. This process is a happy medium. It provides the same outcome and flexibility with ashes, but at the same time, they are more comfortable with the process.”

All six Bradshaw funeral homes offer the process but the resomation equipment is at the Stillwater facility.

The White Bear Town Board denied Bradshaw’s request to offer biocremation at its township location in 2010. Board members at the time had concerns about allowing the unconventional system in a residential neighborhood.

(1) comment

DFS Memorials

It will be interesting to see if bio-cremation really takes off. It still seems quite expensive. You can arrange a simple cremation in the Twin Cities for much less than $2,395? I think families are more concerned with reducing costs, which is why cremation is becoming so much more popular. If you want to keep costs down, then visit the DFS Memorials provider for Minneapolis. They only charge $750 for a complete simple cremation.

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