Corpses Good Enough to Heat Swedish Town, but Not St. Louis

From the land that gave us Ikea, tiny yet tasty meatballs and the Swedish Chef comes another idea to make the world a better place.

Halmstad, by all appearances an idyllic little city on the west coast of Sweden, has decided to use the furnaces of its crematorium to heat the entire town.

Halmstaders hit upon this novel heating solution, reports the British Daily Telegraph, after an environmental review concluded that the crematorium was pumping too much smoke into the air. Instead of purchasing new, more environmentally-friendly ovens, the crematorium owners decided to share the heat.

"It was when we were discussing all these environmental issues that we started thinking about the energy that is used in the cremations and realised that instead of all that heat just going up into the air, we could make use of it somehow. It was just rising into the skies for nothing," said Lennart Andersson, the director of the cemetery in the town of Halmstad. "For starters we will heat our own premises. But I hope we can connect to the district heating network in the future."

Could this idea possibly take hold in St. Louis and provide a feasible alternative to Laclede Gas and more conventional organ donation?

Tim Cusick of St. Louis Cremation thinks not.

First off, it's impractical. "In cremation, there's not much heat off the body," he explains. "The heat all comes from fuel."

And second, and most importantly, Cusick believes St. Louisans do not possess the Scandinavian stoicism and self-sacrificing spirit of the Halmstaders.

"You can't tell a family, 'Your loved one is being cremated and, oh, yeah, heating the city,'" he says. "It's not going to go over well."

Though crematoria are already used to heat sections of larger Swedish cities like Stockholm and though the Telegraph claims that most of Halmstad's 55,000 residents are okay with getting their heat from a crematorium, Cusick heard otherwise. "The residents got up in arms," he says.

Whatever the case, Halmstad will not experience the great miracle of corpse-heating until at least 2010, depending on how well the experiment goes over in the crematorium.

But what say you St. Louisans? Is burning dead bodies for heat morally reprehensible or ecologically responsible?

- Aimee Levitt

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