Going Green in Life and in Death

beautiful white trillium flowers

Spring has sprung and you know what that means … it’s time to talk about green funerals! Okay, maybe you are a little more focused on reviving your garden and basking in some sunshine, but at People’s Memorial Association (PMA), we like to take this time to dedicate an entire week to talking about the ways our bodies impact our planet at the end of life.

One of the most common questions we hear at PMA from people researching their options is, “What can I do to minimize the environmental impact of my funeral?” In a region passionate about the majesty of the outdoors, this is no surprise. We know that it takes a lot of materials to build a casket, a lot of chemicals to embalm a person, and a lot of industrial tools to maintain a perfectly manicured, sprawling cemetery lawn. Concern for the environment leads a lot of folks to choose cremation instead.

For generations, cremation was the most ecologically friendly deathcare option, but things have changed. For one thing, we know now that this energy-intensive process releases 219 known emissions, including carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, and carcinogenic toxins. Our affinity for cremation here in Washington has led to 1,400 pounds of mercury vaporized in the last five years alone, to say nothing of the natural gas we’ve gobbled up. We lead the nation in cremation, with nearly 80 percent of Washingtonians choosing cremation for their final disposition. (The national average hovers at only about 52 percent.)

With the passage of SB5001 just a couple of years back, Washingtonians have two more options for caring for their bodies and both have a reduced impact on the environment. Alkaline hydrolysis (AKA aquamation) and natural organic reduction (AKA human composting) became legal in 2020 and have since allowed many families the chance to choose the care that aligns with their values. Almost 500 aquamations have taken place since then!

During our third annual Green Funerals Week, we will learn more about the environmental impact of cremation, get updated on the latest in land stewardship from green cemeteries around the country, find out how grassroots advocacy can help to increase deathcare options, and hear the story of the first aquamation to take place in Washington. As part of this series, PMA is truly over the moon to be able to hold its first in-person event since 2019: a guided tour of Return Home’s natural organic reduction facility followed by refreshments and a special crafting workshop facilitated by The Grateful Death.

As Washington’s oldest funeral education and consumer advocacy nonprofit, PMA knows our community has come to expect high-quality, fascinating educational content from us. We can’t wait for you to join us at Green Funerals Week to see us in action and get your questions answered by the experts:

To register and save your seat, visit our website. PMA members can join the webinar sessions for $5 each; nonmembers for $10. The in-person session at Return Home’s facility is $20 per person for members and $30 for nonmembers. Registration is limited, so grab your ticket soon!

Can’t make a webinar session? Register anyway and receive a recording of the session directly to your e-mail, along with the presenter’s materials. We also invite you to check out our webinar library for a peek back at previous sessions.

We’ll see you on the green side!

Beverly TrykContributor Beverly Tryk manages communications at People’s Memorial Association. Got questions? Leave a message at 206-325-0489 or e-mail

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of AgeWise King County.