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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 the MN  legislature is considering it in 2024: see sidebar. 


The Recompose facility in Seattle is a funeral home with a difference. Founder Katrina Spade is at right.


 March 2024

Earth to earth:
Natural organic reduc
tion for Minnesota?


As a recent Star Tribune editorial put it, "'Human composting' should be legal.... Minnesota lawmakers should legalize Natural Organic Reduction as an end-of-life alternative this session" (March 18, 2024). NOR 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 have followed there. It makes sense especially for cities where burial lands are scarce.

Six states have already legalized it: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, and New York. In Minnesota, bills to legalize NOR have been heard by House and Senate committees in March 2024 (HF2669 and SF3134).










Sen. John Marty (center) is championing the bill. At his right is former Sen. Carolyn Laine, known for her advocacy of end-of-life options, who spoke to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Other speakers joined them for this photo, along with members of the local NOR Action Group.  

Resources on NOR

"Human composting" should be legal, editorial in Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), March 18, 2024.

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).

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.

The Going Home Green group will share more resources as we discover them. For info or to join us at our occasional meetings and field trips, get in touch: 

Mindy Keskinen at 

Joan Shrum at

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