Rep. Lewis Files Bill To Legalize Environmentally-Friendly Burial Alternatives

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In full transparency, the following is a press release.

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BOSTON – To combat the present and ever-growing threat of climate change and provide Massachusetts families with affordable alternatives to conventional burial, Reps. Jack Patrick Lewis and Natalie Higgins filed legislation to legalize the use of environmentally-
friendly burial alternatives to cremation and casket burial. This new legislation would add two additional options for Massachusetts residents: alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction (NOR). 

“Casket burial and cremation have significant climate impact stemming from CO 2 emissions, toxic chemical leakage, and land usage, and we are going to need all possible paths to stem the threat of climate change,” Rep. Lewis noted. 

Alkaline hydrolysis uses water and an alkali solution to convert remains into a liquid and sand-like substance that can be returned to the natural environment via the watershed or for use in farming, using only one-tenth of the energy involved in cremation.

Natural organic reduction gently reduces human remains into soil that can be used for planting or scattering akin to conventional cremation. Natural organic reduction saves one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the environment when chosen in place of conventional burial or cremation – equivalent to 40 backyard propane tanks or 113 gallons of gasoline.

Alkaline hydrolysis is currently legal in 20 states, and natural organic reduction is legal in three: Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.
Both methods would be new options for Massachusetts. 

“Legalizing green burial options will not only help combat climate change, but also provide Massachusetts families with more affordable choices,” noted Rep. Higgins. 

Cremation costs nearly $9,000, and conventional burial costs are even higher at $10,000, according to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association. In contrast, alkaline hydrolysis costs around $3,000 per burial, and natural organic reduction costs about $5,500.


​“It’s not easy to think about after-death choices, but being able to choose a last gesture that is beneficial to the planet can be comforting. Natural organic reduction is sustainable and informed by nature,” said Katrina Spade, inventor of NOR and the founder and CEO of Recompose, the first full-service funeral home to offer this option. “Our research has proven this option to be safe and effective, and we’re honored to have already provided the service to more than 50 families.We look forward to working with lawmakers and community members to make NOR available to all Massachusetts residents who want it.” 

Spade first had the idea for the process while pursuing her master’s degree in architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The legislation is currently before the House Clerk and will be assigned to an initial committee for a public hearing.

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