- A California law makes it legal to turn human remains into compost
- The process involves placing the body inside a reusable container along with wood chips and aerating it to allow microbes and bacteria to do their thing
- The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, takes effect in 2027
- ‘With climate change … this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere,’ the bill’s author said
California will begin offering the option of human composting after death thanks to a bill recently signed into law that aims to tackle climate change.
Human composting, also known as natural organic reduction (NOR), would be an option for residents who don’t want to be buried or cremated upon their death – starting in 2027.
The process involves placing the body inside a long, reusable steel container along with wood chips and flowers to aerate it – allowing microbes and bacteria to do break down the remains.
Approximately one month later, the remains will fully decompose and be turned into soil.
Advocates for the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, have said that NOR is a more climate-friendly option.
Cremation in the U.S. alone emits about 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to National Geographic.
The bill bans the combining of various peoples’ remains unless they are related.
But it does not make it illegal to sell the soil that results from the process or use it to grow food for human consumption.
‘AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally-friendly and gives them another choice for burial,’ Democratic Assembly member Cristina Garcia, the author of the bill, said in a statement.
‘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.
‘I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree,’ she wrote, noting that she herself may choose the method when she passes away.
Micah Truman, founder and CEO of Return Home, a funeral home in the Seattle area that specializes in human composting, said there’s been growing demand for the practice in recent years.
‘With cremation, instead of sitting with our person and saying goodbye, we are very divorced from the process,’ he told The Guardian.