A businesswoman and mother of three from Johnstown has plans to open the first eco-friendly cremation facility in Ireland. Mortician Elizabeth Oakes (33), who holds a degree in mortuary science will be soon offering water cremation as an alternative to flame creation and burial. 30% of deaths in Ireland last year resulted in cremation and in the funeral industry, environmentally focused services are growing in popularity.
Elizabeth has just been shortlisted as a finalist in Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur Awards for her groundbreaking new business Oakes Aquamation. Having worked as an embalmer, funeral director and makeup artist in the funeral industry in the states she was inspired to bring Aquamation to Ireland as she explains,
"I was at a trade show in America and became aware of this new technology that has huge benefits for the environment and for the individual. It's a very natural and gentle process that dissolves the tissue and leaves you with sterile bone ash. The process takes less than two hours and you receive 30% more of your loved one back because nothing is lost in the process.
"Aquamation accelerates the natural decomposition process of the body. The deceased body is placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel, and water, heat and alkalinity are gently applied to accelerate a natural process of tissue hydrolysis. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so this natural process simply returns us to a natural form. Some solid bones remain, but these can ordinarily be ground to provide ashes if required. And the water is returned to the earth.
It has become clear that Death, despite being the most natural of processes, is bad for the environment. Coffins, most of which are made from nonbiodegradable chipboard, take up valuable land space. Even when coffins are biodegradable, the embalming liquid can leak into the soil. Cremation, during which remains are burned at 1,562°F (850°C), comes with its own problems. Elizabeth says that Aquamation is being touted as the greenest method for disposing of your mortal remains.
"One of the great things about Aquamation is that things like pacemakers and prosthetic limbs are unharmed in the process and therefore can be reused and recycled," according to the Meath mortician.
"I have had a phenomenal reaction to the whole concept which is unusual because nobody likes to talk about death. But we are all going to die eventually and I think people are becoming more open to the conversation because they realise they need to make decisions.
"The industry hasn't changed in 150 years and I believe that Aquamation is going to revolutionise it. With a huge amount of people choosing cremation, in ten years time, there will be very few people standing around graves in cemeteries.
"We live in a Catholic country and often when you think of people going up in flames you think of things like hell and the devil. This is a much more calming, reassuring and natural process.
"It has been legalised in 20 states in the U.S and UCLA have used Aquamation for over 3,000 bodies. I'm aiming to bring water cremation to Ireland by 2020 and I'm hoping that I can build this centre in Meath."