New Choices for Disposition in Colorado
The typical Disposition of Final Remains form in Colorado includes as the primary item, the choice for the declarant to have their body either buried, cremated, entombed or “other.”
And while burial, cremation or entombment remain popular options, estate planning attorneys and their clients should be aware that the “other” options for final disposition have expanded in Colorado in recent years, with our state being on the forefront of new developments in the funeral industry. These disposition methods are increasing in popularity as they are much more environmentally friendly than traditional methods. They include human composting — also called Natural Organic Reduction, alkaline hydrolysis and green burial.
When Gov. Jared Polis signed SB21-006 into law in May 2021, it allowed Colorado funeral homes to offer human composting to the public. Colorado became only the second state at the time, after Washington, to offer this disposition method, but since then a few other states have followed suit.
NOR is a process in which a body is composted in a vessel with organic materials, turning the body into nutrient rich soil in three to six months. NOR not only has a low carbon footprint, but the compost also restores land and sequesters carbon.
Under Colorado law it is prohibited to use the soil created by human composting to grow food for human consumption.
Alkaline Hydrolysis (Aquamation)
Alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation uses water and an alkali similar to liquid soap to dissolve remains into a benign solution. Colorado is one of about 20 states that currently permits alkaline hydrolysis. This disposition method is also environmentally friendly. The solution and cremated remains are filled with nutrients that will grow plants.
With a tiny carbon footprint, green burial has become very popular in recent years. This disposition method minimizes environmental impacts by forgoing embalming, concrete vaults, metal caskets and other non-biodegradable materials. Individuals usually opt for a wooden casket or simple shroud. Green burials were standard in the 1800s, before the age of embalming. Jewish and Muslim communities have embraced green burial for centuries as part of their religious tradition. Due to its simplicity, green burial is often much less expensive than traditional burial.
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