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Natural Organic Reduction is Legal in MN!!!

Updated: May 27

Governor Walz officially signed Natural Organic Reduction Bill into law as a part of the Omnibus Tax Bill today, May 24th, 2024!!!


Curious conversations led me to a Katrina Spade presentation at the Swedish Institute in January of 2023. Emails of local folks with an interest in green alternatives were gathered and less than a year and a half later, we're legal... WOW!


NOR Minnesota and what we accomplished was a tremendous grassroots effort by a dynamic group of passionate MN residents - each bringing a unique set of skills to the table to make it happen.


Read on for a fun flashback outlining our progress from beginning and the events that got us here...

 

Fall 2022: Compost me!

Thanks to co-instructor and great friend, Andrea Davila, I was first introduced to Natural Organic Reduction through her suggested reading for our Grand Challenge Course at the UMN: To Be a Field of Poppies (I know you're tired of me referencing this article... but it look what it sparked!). Picture from the GCC Course taken @ the Toaster Innovation Hub. Get full back story here.



January 2023: Katrina Spade draws a crowd in Minneapolis for a talk Exploring Ecological Death Care w/ Katrina Spade of Recompose. Not only did over a hundred gather... Susie Whitlock and former State Senator Carolyn Laine had the wherewithall to gather emails. Those two, along with Angela Woosley who facilitated the dialogue, would become key activators of NOR Minnesota and the broader legislative movement.

February 2023: Draft bill submitted to state house!

The first email to that growing listserv was the announcement that former Senator Carolyn Laine, referred to in-house as our legislative "Rock Star," drafts and submits a bill. While advised to push for the following legislative session with a full slate, this laid the groundword for 2024... we were officially on our way.


March 2023: Body Composting Conference A few folks from the original listserv would follow their interests and attend, some in-person / some virtual, the first-ever body composting conference in Colorado facilitated by Seth Viddal and his team at The Natural Funeral. This would be the first time many of us heard about the process in depth and witnessed a mock 'laying in' ceremony.


I remember learning that others attended (I was only able to tune in virtually) and was ecstatic (and slightly jealous) that folks were getting closer to reality of applying this concept.


Looking back at email threads at this time, I also shared this great anecdote from my children... who were obviously tuning in to all my odd conversations around death, body disposition methods, and natural organic reduction.

April 2023: Inaugural MN NOR Action Group Meeting

From that email thread, we would pull together a key group of interested folks and begin meeting off and on over the 6 months or so, sharing our learnings, creating a common understanding of this new concept, and brainstorming ways to activate and engage a broader audience when the time came.


Early wins included an opinion piece titled A new back-to-the-land movement for the end of life put forward by Angela Woosley that would get picked up by the Star Tribune. The piece provided some great context on the process and encouraged interesting folks to join the growing NOR Minnesota listserv!


Around this same time, I would submit my proposal to the MN Cup and take my first official step towards realizing Live On Minesota. Check out the full MN Cup story.


November 2023: NOR Minneosota re-energized

With the meetings relatively sparse and energy low, we pulled our core team together with the intent to re-energize the group leading up to and through the 2024 session. We put a call out to the broader NOR Minnesota listserv and formed key groups to get things in motion.

At roughly the same time, the Star Tribune provided the first personal narrative highlighting the importance of access to Natural Organic Reduction in Minnesota. Twin Cities man's dying wish: Compost me for the benefit of the planet told the story of Steve Wheeler, a Lake Elmo resident, "body ravaged by cancer and years of multiple sclerosis," found peace in his passing knowing that he could be composted. Steve's quote will forever be etched in our minds... "With this act, I can at least go out on a high note and say I left the world just a little bit better than when I found it."


He was able to make this happen, and share his story, thanks to the folks at Mueller Memorial who helped facilitate his journey to Washington State in collaboration with Return Home. They also worked will Steve to film his heartfelt testimony on the topic.


Taelor Johnson and Scott Mueller, of Mueller Memorial, would offically connect with NOR Minnesota as a result of this article and go on play a critical role in helping to activate the support and inform the legislation.


This momentum would eventually lead to key resources like the development of our website, and Take Action Advocacy Toolkit providing an official public presence and making it easy for a broader audience of supporters to contribute to the movement. Longstanding Efforts that wouldn't have

been possible without longstanding NOR Minneosota members Erica Schmiel, Jacob Grippen, and Sally Ruvelson.


February 2024: Terracon - The first ever Terramation (body composting) conference

For me, this is truly where it all came together. Four key members from NOR Minnesota made the trip out to WA state to attend Terracon - a conference coordinated by the magnificent team at Return Home.


We toured two facilities, Recompose and Return Home, heard from NOR operators and scientists, legislators from WA and OR, partnering fneral directors, and, most importantly, families and loved ones who had utilized the services and experienced the imapct of Natural Organic Reduction first hand.


We also had the opportunity to formalize relationships with current providers in WA who played a critical role in helping to inform the policy that has passed in Minnesota. Huge thank you to folks at Earth Funeral, Recompose, and Return Home who entertained our questions, read our drafts, showed up for testimony, etc. We could not have done it without you all!


March 2024: It's Testimony Time


With the 2024 legislative session already underway, our Rock Star legislator Carolyn Laine leveraged the energy and learnings from the conference to refine the proposed bills and ensured we were prepped and ready to support sponsors in the House and Senate when the time came.


Four of our NOR Minnesota members, Carolyn Laine, Janet McGee, Erik Halaas, and Taelor Johnson, testified in the State House and Senate (3/12 and 3/14 respectively) on behalf of our growing group of NOR supporters (at this point over 200) sharing our learnings from WA and providing context and clarity on the topic. From former legislator to mortuary science educator and current funeral professional to budding entrepreneur, the team was demonstrative of the dynamic group of supporters that helped to move this effort forward.


With the energy of passionate Minnesotans behind us, we also were able to capture the official support of the Star Tribune Editorial Board who wrote that "Minnesota lawmakers should legalize Natural Organic Reduction as an end-of-life alternative this session"


The Board's support was followed swiftly by a Letter to the Editor from NOR Team member, Erica Schmiel. Like this heartfelt personal note in support of Natural Organic Reduction, the broader audience of NOR Minnesota supporters contributed to the movement through writing countless emails, letters, and posts to their representatives, local papers, and relevant orgranizations.


You can see a full breakdown of the Testimony on the blog.


April - May 2024: Amend, amend, amend

Behind the scenes the team worked tirelessly over the next couple months to edit, refine, update, adapt, and improve the bill language in collaboration with key stakeholders. The final versions would eventually be included in the Omnibus Health and Human Services supplemental appropriations and policy provisions bill (SF 4699) where it would make its way to Conference Committee to align the final language across House and Senate bills.


May 19th, 2024: Minnesota Legislature passes Natural Organic Reduction!!!

In the waning hours of the 2024 legislative session, the majority party put the Health bill and several other, mostly department, bills into the Tax bill and passed it quickly, against objections. The final bill is in line with the collective amendments proposed by the NOR Minnesota team and associated stakeholders permitting Natural Organic Reduction with an implementation date of July 1, 2025 and setting licensure requirements for providers.


May 24th, 2024: Governor Walz signs bill legalizing Natural Organic Reduction!

The NOR Minnesota Team is working on scheduling a ceremonial signing. Keep an eye out for an opportunity to celebrate, learn more about what is ahead, and join us on our collaborative journey to becoming future compost!


 

Join us on our journey!

If your interested in remaining tuned into more of this content, sign up for the Live On Minnesota newsletter and join us on our journey to become future compost!


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