What do you want to have happen to your remains after you die? The truth is it isn’t completely up to us as individuals. Every state has their own laws and rules that regulate what types of body disposition options can be used.
Many factors go into a state’s decision to expand disposition services. History has shown that scientific data, special interest groups, the preference of lawmakers, environmental impact, cost and consumer demand all play a role. Some states have proven that they are committed to giving their residents more disposition freedom by legalizing new alternative deathcare services. The states below are where people currently have the most disposition options, including natural organic reduction.
Washington – Where Natural Organic Reduction Began
Washington has become well known in recent years as the state where residents have a lot of choice when it comes to funeral services. In 2019 Washington became the first state to allow human composting, also called natural organic reduction. With this disposition method the body is put in a vessel with natural elements like straw and alfalfa. Over the course of several weeks the body breaks down by microbes and becomes soil that can be given to the family or donated.
Washington was also among the first states that allow water cremation, also known as aquamation or alkaline hydrolysis. But there is one deathcare limitation in Washington. They don’t allow home burials on your own property. However, that could soon change. Recently, a bill was introduced that would make home burials legal so long as it’s for an immediate family member and the property owner registers the final resting place.
Oregon – Following Washington’s Lead Along With Home Burials
Right next door to Washington, Oregon also has disposition options beyond traditional burial and cremation. Like Washington, Oregon has approved human composting. All types of cremation can also be selected in Oregon, including water cremation.
Unlike Washington, Oregon does allow for home burials. If that isn’t an option, families can choose natural burial services that have a minimal impact in a public or private cemetary.
Colorado – The State That’s Not Afraid of Doing Things Differently
The third state to legalize alkaline hydrolysis is Colorado, which isn’t surprising to professionals in the funeral industry. The state is known for being a frontrunner in legalizing marijuana and psychedelics, but aquamation has also been allowed in Colorado for quite a while.
But there’s one thing that really sets Colorado apart from all other states in terms of disposition options. It’s the only state where you can have an open-air cremation. However, there is a significant limitation. A funeral pyre can only be done in Crestone, CO.
California – Leading the Environmental-Friendly Funeral Movement
California is known for being a state that keeps an open mind about new ideas, especially ones that help protect and improve the environment. It was only a matter of time before California legalized natural organic reduction due to the fact that it can have net zero carbon emissions and generates healthy soil. The only issue is the law legalizing NOR was passed in late 2022, and it will still be years before a facility is operable in the state. California legislators have until 2027 to create regulations and put them in place.
Until then, California residents can choose traditional funeral services as well as natural burial and water cremation. Just be careful about scattering the cremains, because California strictly regulates anything that can negatively impact the environment, including untreated cremated remains.
Florida – Where People Are Free to Do Their Own Thing
Another state with a large population that has opened the way for alternative disposition is Florida. It was actually one of the first states to approve the use of alkaline hydrolysis and the first to offer it commercially. While the service was limited at first, the Florida legislation has expanded it so that water cremation is a widely available option today.
The state is home to one of the country’s first conservation cemeteries and offers various alternative burial options. Florida is also the homebase for Eternal Reefs, the first company to use cremains to create artificial coral reefs.
Florida is known for being a state with a lot of freedom that’s not afraid to be weird. There’s a don’t tread on me and vice versa mentality that carries through to disposition choices. As demand grows for natural organic reduction in Florida, the state is expected to be one of the next to begin regulating NOR services so that the option is available to those that want it.
The environment is another factor. Florida is also a state that is heavily invested in protecting and preserving the environment. The state’s economy heavily relies on the tourism and seafood industries, which gives Florida lawmakers incentive for legalizing green funeral services.
Vermont – Protecting Ecosystems Through the Seasons
Vermont is covered in snow part of the year, which makes burials difficult. But from the spring through fall the state is a beautiful array of foliage and fauna. It’s understandable that state residents want to preserve the land as much as possible.
House Bill H.244 legalizing natural organic reduction was approved by the Governor on June 2, 2022. The key reason for allowing NOR is because of its low environmental impact. Vermont also legalized alkaline hydrolysis back in 2014. However, unlike other states, individuals must get a license to have a water cremation.
New York – Overcoming Burial Limitations With Alternative Disposition
In New York, there are areas that have felt the impact of limited burial space. It’s one of the reasons that state legislators recently expanded the disposition options to include natural organic reduction. Senate Bill S5535 opened the way for NOR to be offered in coming years. New York’s Division of Cemeteries still needs to work out the regulatory details before facilities can begin setting up in the state.
Surprisingly, alkaline hydrolysis isn’t regulated in New York State. It’s authorized for medical education centers to use alkaline hydrolysis for disposition of cadavers, but it isn’t allowed for the general public.
Nevada – The Newest Frontrunner in Modern Funeral Services
Nevada is quickly becoming one of the states with the most modernized funeral services. While Nevada wasn’t one of the first states to legalize water cremation, the state has been quick to regulate it and actually start offering the service. Since being legalized in 2017, numerous funeral homes have begun providing water cremation.
The demand for water cremation has been so high that Nevada became the latest state to approve natural organic reduction in mid-2023. House Bill 52 was adopted largely due to public demand for greener deathcare services.
Idaho – The Place to be for Home Burial
Idaho made the list because of how remarkably easy it is to have a home burial in the state. The practice isn’t outlawed, which is the case in some other states. And there’s also a lot less oversight and requirements compared to other states. You don’t even need to have a funeral director preside over the home burial. As long as home burial is allowed by the local zoning regulations you can do it on your own property.
Idaho has legalized water cremation, however, the service isn’t offered yet through funeral homes in the state. Also, there are currently no bills that attempt to make human composting a legal disposition option. So for now, natural burial is the greenest disposition option available.
Texas – More Ways to Scatter Cremains
Texas makes the list because it has no state regulations on home burials, and the state is pretty lenient about scattering cremains. There are relatively few state regulations beyond the federal limitations. You can scatter cremains on any private property so long as you have the owner’s consent. You can also scatter cremations over public waterways and uninhabited public land. But there is one unique stipulation. The urn must be biodegradable, or you’ll have to remove the cremated remains before scattering.
Efforts are underway to legalize water cremation and natural organic reduction in Texas. While bills have favored well in the past, they have stalled before being voted on.
Fortunately, modern day technology and transit enables more people in states around the country to choose all the different disposition options. Are you a Texas resident that wants to know more about water cremation, natural burial, natural organic reduction or eco-friendly flame-based cremation?
Give the helpful team at Green Cremation Texas a call, text or email anytime of day to get answers to your questions.