Going Home Green
If we’re trying to live lightly on the earth, couldn't we plan for a greener death as well? The Going Home Green group is learning about end-of-life practices that honor environment and community. We're reclaiming time-honored traditions, discovering new ones, and finding local and national resources: follow the links here.
How would you like to live your last days?
Even if you already have an advance care directive, consider talking with those close to you about how you'd picture your final days, given the choice. Whether it's hospice or a healthcare setting, what might give you comfort? Honoring Choices MN has ways to start the conversation, and Compassion and Choices MN has "tools to finish strong," including dementia considerations.
What about your care immediately after death?
A funeral home can prepare the body, but you may have more choices and legal rights than you’re aware of— for example, the home funeral. Today, more families are choosing to care for the body at home and even welcoming visitors: it's permitted for up to 3 days in Minnesota. There are legal and practical needs, too, so plan in advance to meet state regulations: read the health department's Choices booklet. You might consider a local guide such as Anne Murphy of A Thousand Hands, Angela Woosley of Inspired Journeys, or a faith group leader. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of MN has resources including a form for After Death Arrangements.
Body disposition: You have options
Some local "hybrid cemeteries" now allow a version of green burial: you can skip embalming and use a shroud or biodegradable vessel instead of a casket and vault. These include Roselawn in Roseville, Mound in Brooklyn Center, Oak Hill in Minneapolis, and Resurrection in Mendota Heights. Families can take a hands-on approach to the burial ceremony, especially at Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco-Gardens in Inver Grove Heights, the metro's only natural burial ground. The Land Conservation Natural Burial Project is planning for an east-metro area where burials are part of the land stewardship program. Another resource is the Green Burial Council.
If you choose cremation, there’s a water-based process that emits a lot less carbon: in a few hours, alkaline hydrolosis ("water cremation") reduces a body to ashy fragments, similar to a flame cremation. Several area funeral homes now offer it, including Bradshaw. One option for disposition of ashes (of any type) is the Better Place Forest in Scandia, one of several memorial forests nationwide. If you consider body donation through the Mayo Clinic or University of Minnesota, note that the Mayo's process ends with alkaline hydrolysis, while the U's ends with flame cremation.
There's also the natural organic reduction process pioneered by Recompose, which reduces the body to compost. It's been legalized in six states, and our legislature will consider it in 2024: see sidebar.
The Recompose facility in Seattle is a funeral home with a difference. Founder Katrina Spade is at right.
The Going Home Green group will share more resources as we discover them. For info or to join us at our occasional meetings, get in touch:
Mindy Keskinen at email@example.com
Joan Shrum at firstname.lastname@example.org
Natural Organic Reduction for Minnesota?
Natural organic reduction is a new funerary process that gently and safely reduces the human body to compost in a specialized facility in about 8 weeks. It was developed by the Seattle-based company Recompose, which opened in 2020; other companies followed suit there. It makes sense especially for cities where burial lands are scarce.
Six states have legalized NOR since 2019: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, and New York. In Minnesota, groundwork has been laid for discussion and vote in 2024. House bill HF2669 is sponsored by John Huot (district 56B, Rosemount), Mike Freiberg (43B, Golden Valley-Robbinsdale), and Samantha Sencer-Mura (63A, Minneapolis-Seward). Senate bill SF3134 is sponsored by John Marty (district 40, Roseville), Mary Kunesh (39, New Brighton), and Scott Dibble (61, South Minneapolis). Both bills were introduced in March 2023 and will stay active for the two-year session. Check back here or email us for updates.
An NOR Action Group is planning advocacy for the bill. When the time is right, they'll be contacting legislators, writing for publication, tabling, and more. To learn more or join the group, email us and we'll connect you.
Resources on NOR
If you want to give something back to nature, give your body by Caitlin Doughty, NY Times, Dec. 5, 2022
Human composting as a new death care alternative: A guide to NOR, US Funerals Online, Jan. 2023
To be a field of poppies by Lisa Wells, Harper's, Sept. 2021
Eco-friendly burial options gaining notice, Park Bugle (St. Paul, MN), March 2023
The Recompose website has news on public policy across the country, including Minnesota.
See other coverage from CNN, BBC, Slate, and Sierra Club.
More death-care resources
Books & articles
Thinking about having a "green" funeral? Here's what you need to know by Sonya Vatomsky, NY Times, March 22, 2018.
The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial by Elizabeth Fournier (New World, 2018).
Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials by Lucinda Herring (North Atlantic Books, 2019).
Greening Death: Reclaiming Burial Practices and Restoring Our Tie to the Earth by Suzanne Kelly (Rowan & Littlefield, 2015).
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty (Norton, 2017).
Choices, Minnesota Department of Health's regulations for body disposition, 2011 (PDF).
Films & videos
Films include A Family Undertaking, Passing On, and A Will for the Woods.