Human Composting: A More Sustainable Way to Die

Did you know that even after you die, you can have a positive impact on the environment? Instead of opting for cremation or traditional burial, you could choose to have your body converted into life-giving soil.

This process is called terramation or human composting. California and New York are among the latest states to have legalized terramation.

Why is cremation not the most sustainable funeral option?

Cremation, embalming, and casket burials are the most common ways to say goodbyes to our loved ones. Unfortunately, they are not the most sustainable options. Cremation requires fuel to heat bodies to a temperature of 1200 degrees fahrenheit. This emits CO2 in the atmosphere.

When a corpse is cremated, it emits an estimated 418 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. This is equivalent to driving 470 miles in a car. Cremations in the U.S. produce 1.74 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Human composting is a sustainable alternative to cremation and burial

Human composting or terramation is a process of placing a dead body in a reusable air-tight vessel with biodegradable materials like wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Over a period of a couple of days, the organic reduction converts bodies into soils.

This process avoids using fossil fuels to heat and decompose the body. This brings down the cost and the emissions associated with the cremation. It also eliminates the need to manufacture non-biodegradable materials like concrete or plastic vaults, steel caskets, or lacquers. Formaldehyde exposure, which causes myeloid leukemia and rare cancers, is a risk for funeral home workers. Human composting eliminates that risk.

The soil produced at the end of human composting is given to loved ones to fertilize gardens, farms, or nearby woodland. They can also choose to donate it.

The human composting process involves the transportation of bodies, materials, and remains and uses some electricity to run the setup, so it isn't completely carbon-free. But it is 90% cleaner than cremation, as claimed by Micah Truman, CEO of Return Home.

Which states have made human composting legal?

As of September 2023, these are the states where human composting is legal:

  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • California
  • New York
  • Nevada

Everyone in these states can choose this alternative, sustainable form of saying goodbye, except for bodies with three rare diseases that disqualify them from undergoing human composting. What’s most important is choosing the best for you and your loved ones?

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