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‘Your days of pollution are over’: California legalizes human composting

Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 351 into law on September 18, enabling Californians to turn human beings into plant food. What previously would have constituted improper disposal of human remains under the law and qualified as a crime, will soon be a permissible practice for approved and regulated “reduction chamber manufacturers.”

Human composting is also legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont.

Accordingly, rather than having a human body entombed or cremated, as of January 1, 2027, a corpse can be broken down into soil, which then can be utilized by the deceased’s family or donated to conservation land.

Although different human renderers’ methods may vary, one approach is the placement of a corpse “in a vessel surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw.” The body is aerated, enclosed, and then consumed over the course of weeks by bacteria and microbes. Afterwards, the resulting cubic yard of human soil is cured for two to six weeks.

KNTV reported that the price of opting out of a normal burial and having a loved one instead turned into garden material is $7,000.

Cristina Garcia is the Democrat member of the California State Assembly who proposed the bill. She cited “natural organic reduction” as a “more environmentally-friendly … choice for burial,” and suggested that composting human beings was one way to tackle so called climate change.

Although composting also releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, Garcia suggested after the bill passed onto the Senate Health Committee in June that “this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere.”

Rather than a traditional tombstone, Garcia, who is leaving office in December after having lost her primary election in June, recommends using a family member’s remains to nourish a memorial tree. “I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.”

Recompose, a “full-service funeral home specializing in human composting,” will be among the human rendering companies to begin transforming the dead into nutrients next year. The company has supported Garcia’s push for legalization.

The company’s CEO, Katrina Spade, indicated that in addition to combatting changing weather patterns, this “process would provide Californians an option that offers significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage over conventional burial or cremation.”

In 2014, Spade penned a blog entry for the Huffington Post, saying “You might take solace in the fact that when you die, your days of pollution are over.” She argued that as conventionally buried bodies break down, they slowly expel emissions, including methane. These emissions, argued Spade, in combination with those involved in the manufacture of coffins and the use of embalming, have a “deleterious” impact on the environment.

Spade suggested further that cremation, which as of 2018 was the option elected by Californians 66.7% of the time, was no better, with each immolation requiring approximately 28 gallons of fuel and allegedly emitting 540 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Spade emphasized that a “conscious, thoughtful society” ought to “encourage the acceptance of death as part of the natural life cycle.” Her company, committed to “climate healing and environmental justice,” has composted 187 human beings since December 2020.

In a state keen always to find new way to reduce or offset carbon emissions, proponents of human composting have alleged that if every California resident was ultimately turned into soil, “we would save nearly 2.5 million metric tons of CO2 in just 10 years.”