To talk with a guide call (877) 830-8311

Couple and their dog in Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway

What end-of-life options are people choosing in California?

Share this article
Better Place Forests creates and maintains conservation memorial forests for people who choose cremation and don’t want their ashes to end up in a traditional cemetery.

As you’re making your end-of-life plans, it’s helpful to know about the different services available in your state. There are several options for cremation in California and alternatives to cremation that you may want to consider. Among other considerations, many people are curious to know how their choices may affect the environment and seek out natural options. Cost is also an important factor because each option may come with different prices. 

Below we’ll discuss why cremation in California is on the rise, the associated costs, and what you need to know before deciding what’s best for you.

What is cremation?

Cremation is the act of reducing a body to ash by fire. This end-of-life choice was practiced as early as 1000 BCE. Cremation was often used on the battlefield, since transporting fallen soldiers’ bodies was not practical. 

After cremation, the remains are typically either spread somewhere meaningful, kept in a container in a special place, or buried in an urn.

Today, there are multiple reasons why people choose cremation. Many people decide on cremation because it’s considered a more green burial option. These individuals usually wish to minimize their impact on the environment. Some choose cremation because it allows for easier transportation of the remains across state lines. And the vast majority do so because it’s more affordable than its burial counterpart.  

Is cremation an environmentally-friendly end-of-life option?

For many, the environmental impact of their end-of-life decision is important. The Golden State is often ranked in the top 10 most environmentally-friendly states. It should come as no surprise that along the West Coast, cremation is preferred over traditional burial, which can leach toxic embalming chemicals into the ground and use up valuable resources.

In California, cremation is projected to grow by nearly 80% by 2030. While cremation does impact the environment, it has far less of an impact than traditional in-ground burial. If you’re deciding on a California cremation, check to see that the crematorium you select is using the latest technology and has procedures to mitigate some of the negative environmental impacts.

Green cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation, uses water and alkalinity to reduce the body to its basic elements. The Mayo Clinic developed the process over a decade ago, and it’s now becoming a popular California cremation choice for those who want to have as little of an impact on the environment as possible after they pass.

Is cremation legal in California?

In California, cremation is legal, but there are certain requirements that must be met by the businesses that provide this service. For instance, the crematorium must disclose certain pieces of information regarding the cremation process and remains. In addition, the family or loved ones must be able to view the cremation if they desire.

What may surprise some about the California cremation process is that a casket is not required. A combustible cremation container is required, but there is no requirement that you buy the container from the funeral establishment or crematory. 

Is alkaline hydrolysis legal in California?

As of July 1, 2020, alkaline hydrolysis, also called natural cremation, is legal in California. However, since this is one of the relatively new alternatives to cremation, finding a facility close to where you live in California might be difficult. 

How long does it take to cremate a body in California?

While the actual cremation process may take only three to four hours, the average California cremation time is around 7–10 days. It can be done sooner if the physician promptly signs the death certificate.

This timeline may seem too long for many, but the California cremation process must legally go through several steps to ensure that everything is done properly. While your family members may be anxious to get closure, this can allow them time to contact friends and family members, arrange any type of memorial service, and write an obituary.

What is the average cost of a California funeral?

The average cost of a funeral in California is $11,777, one of the highest average rates in the country. This cost can increase when adding in the cost of a casket, flowers, and other services. For this reason, in California, cremation is a popular end-of-life option because it can significantly reduce the cost since there is no need for a casket, embalming, and other services.

Many people forgo traditional funeral services for other alternatives, such as spreading ashes in the ocean. According to the Federal Clean Water Act, you can scatter ashes in the ocean if it’s done at least three nautical miles from shore. If you decide to do this, you’ll need to factor in the cost of chartering a boat and choose a date when the weather and ocean conditions will be in your favor.

For many, a California cremation aligns with their idea of positively impacting the environment with their end-of-life decision. While cremation can help, there are additional ways to further reduce your impact and allow you to be a good steward of the earth after you pass. One such way to minimize your impact is by having your ashes spread in a memorial forest.

A memorial forest is a place that provides a final resting spot in a natural area where loved ones can honor you, while also contributing to forest conservation. Many people are drawn to this option because it provides their family with a beautiful, natural place to return to and remember them. Better Place Forests has four memorial forests in California: Point Arena, Lake Arrowhead, Yosemite Gateway, and Santa Cruz

While there is a cost to have your ashes spread in a memorial forest, you’ll be contributing to the protection of these forests — protecting forestland for future generations. 

When looking at your end-of-life options in California, cremation can help you leave a legacy aligned with your beliefs while also helping protect the environment for the future.

Explore available
trees with a Guide

Find the tree that speaks to you by exploring trees online or in-forest.