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Natural Awakenings Coastal Carolinas

Human Composting Offers Sustainable Burial

Hands open cupping pile of soil with plant sprouting out

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With the passage of a recent law, Californians will have a new option for the final resting place of those that die beginning in 2027. This makes California the fifth state, along with Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Vermont, to allow human composting, and the most populous.

The most common process for human composting, known as natural organic reduction, involves leaving the body in a container with wood chips and other organic matter for about a month to let bacteria do its work, then curing for a few more weeks before being turned over to the family. This process will save about a metric ton of CO2 per body.

Conventional burials expend approximately three gallons of embalming liquid containing toxic levels of formaldehyde, methanol and ethanol. Cremation creates more than 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from the burning of just one body, and burning uses up the energy equivalent of two tanks of gasoline.

Assembly member Cristina Garcia, who sponsored the bill, says, “AB-351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally friendly and gives them another choice for burial. With climate change and sea level rise as very real threats to our environment, this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere.”