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California will begin offering the option of human composting after death thanks to a recently signed law that aims to tackle climate change.
Human composting, also known as natural organic reduction (NOR), would be an option for residents who do not wish to be buried or cremated upon their death – from 2027.
The process involves placing the body in a long, reusable steel container along with wood chips and flowers to aerate it — allowing microbes and bacteria to break down the remains.
About a month later, the remains will completely decompose and be turned into soil.
Proponents of the bill, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday, have said NOR is a more climate-friendly option.
California will begin offering the option of human composting after death thanks to a recently signed law
Human composting, also known as natural organic reduction (NOR), could be an option for residents who do not wish to be buried or cremated upon their death – from 2027
According to National Geographic, cremation in the US alone emits about 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
The bill prohibits the merging of the remains of different peoples unless they are related.
But it doesn’t make it illegal to sell or use the land resulting from the process to grow food for human consumption.
“AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally friendly and gives them a different choice of burial,” Democratic Assembly member Cristina Garcia, the bill’s author, said in a statement.
Proponents of the bill, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this week, have said NOR is a more climate-friendly option. Cremation in the US alone emits about 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to National Geographic
“With climate change and sea level rise as very real threats to our environment, this is an alternative method of final disposal that will not cause emissions into our atmosphere.
“I look forward to continuing my legacy of fighting for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree,” she says wroteand notes that she can choose the method herself if she dies.
Micah Truman, founder and CEO of Return Home, a Seattle-area funeral home that specializes in human composting, said there has been a growing demand for the practice in recent years.
“With cremation, instead of sitting with our person and saying goodbye, we are very separated from the process,” he told The Guardian.
Proponents of the bill, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this week, have said NOR is a more climate-friendly option
Truman said when a body is composted by his facility, the resulting soil is returned to the family to do with it as they please — some customers have planted trees or flowers, while others have scattered it into the ocean.
The Catholic Church in the state opposes the trial.
“NOR uses essentially the same process as a home garden composting system,” California Catholic Conference executive director Kathleen Domingo said in a statement to SFGATE.
She added that the process was developed for livestock, not humans.
“These removal methods were used to reduce the chance of disease transmission from the dead carcass,” Domingo said.
“Using the same methods for the ‘transformation’ of human remains can lead to an unfortunate spiritual, emotional and psychological distance from the deceased.”
Washington, Colorado and Oregon have all legalized the process of composting human remains. However, Colorado does not allow the land to be sold or used to grow food for human consumption.
Under a bill recently passed by the New York state legislature, only cemeteries would be allowed to apply for a permit to offer human composting — which the New York State Funeral Directors Association objects to.
“Funeral directors essentially always pride themselves on being very responsive, fully responding to what a person earns for their own funeral and burial — however they would like it to be,” Randy McCullough, the organization’s deputy executive director, told NY1 news.
‘And we still want to do that with this process. In itself we are not at all against the introduction of these alternative disposition processes.’