SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Hoping to turn funerals green, a California lawmaker is pushing legislation that would allow families to compost their loved ones and turn their remains into soil.
“This service will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally friendly and gives them another choice for burial,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia in a statement.
Known officially as natural organic reduction, bodies are placed temporarily in individual compartments and allowed to transform naturally into soil. After the process completes in about 30 days, families can take the soil and do things like plant trees or gardens.
Supporters say human composting doubles as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as it saves the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon compared to traditional burials or cremations.
“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,” said Garcia, chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies.
Garcia’s proposal aligns with Washington state law that allows families to forgo traditional burials and cremations in favor of so-called human composting. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill last year and it goes into effect in May.
Seattle-based Recompose says it hopes to begin offering the unconventional end-of-life service by December at a cost of about $5,500. The company says its services are a good fit in cities where cemetery space is scarce and expensive to attain.
“Natural organic reduction is safe, sustainable, and informed by nature. This process would provide Californians an option that offers significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage over conventional burial or cremation,” said Recompose CEO Katrina Spade in a statement.
Recompose says the process creates about a cubic yard of soil per person, or several wheelbarrows full, and that it will return any unused soil to the earth. During the “gentle” process, Recompose claims most pharmaceuticals in the body at death are naturally removed from the final product. The company is currently only focusing on humans and the service is not available for pets.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, 63% of California funerals in 2015 were cremations and it expects the number to grow to 80% by 2030. Cremation was most popular in Washington state, totaling 76% of funerals in 2015.
Garcia’s office claims that if all Californians turned to human composting, it would reduce over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 10 years – equivalent to the amount of energy needed to power 225,000 homes for a year. She hopes Assembly Bill 2592, which isn’t eligible for a hearing until March 22, will become the latest environmental trend.
“Trees are important carbon breaks for the environment,” said Garcia, D-Bell Gardens. “They are the best filters for air quality and if more people participate in organic reduction and tree-planting, we can help with California’s carbon footprint. I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.”