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With cremation on the rise, Cincinnati's College of Mortuary Science gets the greenest machine to teach students

a man wearing a suit vest, tie and a hard hat stands among construction materials
Ann Thompson
President and CEO of the Cincinnati School of Mortuary Science Jack Lechner points out new construction at the school, which includes an environmentally friendly cremator to be finished in August.

The number of people choosing cremation is increasing dramatically. It's gone from 5% in the 1970s to 57% today, and isn't expected to slow down until it hits 80%.

What's driving the increase? A combination of the rising cost of standard burials and the fact that cremation is becoming more common.

The process isn't that environmentally friendly, but cremation technology is advancing. The Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science is getting the greenest machine sold, which takes half the time and creates a smaller carbon footprint.

College President and CEO Jack Lechner says an increasing number of funeral homes have it, including Spring Grove.

He took WVXU on a tour, pointing out where the green cremator will go, as well as an alkaline hydrolysis, commonly called a water cremator. That uses a combination of water and chemicals to decompose the body.

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The family of anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu chose water cremation for him, as the Guardian reported.

Currently, alkaline hydrolysis is not allowed in Ohio, so the College of Mortuary Science will only use it on pets.

"And the only reason we do that is because it is not legal for humans in the state of Ohio," Lechner says. "It's legal in 22 other states but it's not legal in Ohio yet."

There are a number of reasons it remains illegal, according to this CNET article, but most notable is the issues of wastewater.

Lechner expects alkaline hydrolysis will be legal in the future.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.