People's Memorial advocates for consumer protection and choice for funeral and related end of life issues. Our advocacy priorities are:
- Pricing transparency
- Protection from predatory sales tactics
- Increasing consumer choices
PMA is a founding member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) to function as a unifying force for consumer advocacy at the federal level.
People's Memorial Association is part of a team that is currently advocating Washington legislators to legalize two additional disposition options, Alkaline Hydrolysis (also known as Aquamation) and Recomposition. Senate Bill 5001/House Bill 1162 Concerning Human Remains provides Washingtonians with two sustainable death care options, and more choice when it comes to the end of life.
77.3% of Washingtonians choose cremation compared to the national average of 51.6% (2017 Cremation Association of North America). Cremation is an energy-intensive process that releases carbon dioxide, mercury, and particulates into the atmosphere. We need to consider our environmental impact.
Many of you called and wrote to your senators to share your opinion of the bills. Your efforts were rewarded as Senate Bill 5001 passed on February 6, 2019 with a 36-11 vote! Watch the testimonies at the Senate (starts around 49 minutes) and the House (starts around 31 minutes) to learn more about Aquamation and Recomposition. If you want the right to sustainable choices for disposition, please click to comment on House Bill 1162.
Updated February 15, 2019.
Alkaline hydrolysis or "Aquamation" is a gentle process that uses water, temperature, pressure, and alkalinity (potassium hydroxide) to reduce the body to bones which are then processed into ashes and returned to the family in an urn. Cremation does the same reduction using flame, however Aquamation uses 1/8th of the energy.
Aquamation is legal in 16 other states, including Oregon, California, and Colorado, and is currently legal for our pets in Washington. Resting Waters Aquamation is a provider for pets.
Recomposition is a process developed by Katrina Spade, Founder and CEO of Recompose, to gently convert human remains to soil. It is a contained, accelerated process that provides us with the opportunity to nourish new life after we die. It uses significantly less energy than cremation and saves over one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person. The flagship Seattle Recompose facility will provide an intimate place for family and friends to grieve the loss of their loved one and process death.
Why do we need greener choices?
With such a high preference for cremation, it naturally seems that if a greener form of cremation is available, it should be a legal option for Washington residents. Aquamation and Recomposition are more environmentally friendly alternatives to flame cremation. Both processes are non-combustive, meaning, unlike in flame cremation, mercury is not vaporized.
Typically during the flame cremation process, CO2, greenhouse gases, and carcinogenic toxins are among the 219 known emissions released. It also consumes 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas and releases about 3 grams of mercury. In the last 5 years alone, Washington State has seen 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas burned and 1,400 pounds of mercury vaporized.
Additionally, land space for burial in Seattle and other major cities is scarce. Recomposition happens inside of a vessel, which is modular and re-usable.
What is the environmental impact?
- Reduces the use of fossil fuels
- Minimizes waste and avoids polluting groundwater with embalming fluid
- Prevents emissions of CO2 from the manufacturing of caskets, headstones, and grave liners
- Eliminates carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOX), and mercury emissions
- Eliminates air emissions (vastly improves air and water quality)
- Reduces carbon output by 75% (v flame)
- Uses 1/8 the amount of energy (v flame)
How does this benefit consumers?
- Freedom of choice
- Green alternative
- Dignified process
How does this benefit the funeral and cemetery profession?
- No change in funeral service
- No mandated use
- No strict zoning law
- Revenue generator
- Wave of the future
The FCA was instrumental in getting the Federal Trade Commission to adopt a set of standards for funeral home pricing called The Funeral Rule (1984). PMA's biennial Funeral Price Survey was a key component of this successful effort. The Funeral Rule standards were revolutionary in enabling consumers to get accurate price information from funeral homes. PMA and the FCA are now working to update the Funeral Rule to the 21st Century, by requiring funeral homes to post their pricing on their websites.
PMA played a key role in changing Washington law to place the funeral industry under the state’s Consumer Protection Act (2002) and helped pass another law legalizing the scattering of ashes of the deceased.
Succeeded in protecting the rights of Washington families to care for their own dead (2005).
Successfully advocated for the right of Washington's religious and cultural minorities to have up to 24 hours to perform religious or cultural rituals with an unembalmed, unrefrigerated body (2007).
PMA worked side-by-side with the funeral industry to bring about passage of Designated Agent legislation, once again benefiting consumers (2011).