California residents committed to living an eco-friendly life will soon be able to opt for an eco-friendly death. As Smithsonian reports, the Golden State plans to allow human composting by 2027, making it the fifth state to embrace the burial alternative.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law on September 18 clearing officials to legalize “natural organic reduction” within five years. Unlike traditional burial, which involves embalming corpses with preservatives before loading them into non-biodegradable caskets, human composting encourages decomposition. Remains are placed inside reusable “recomposition vessels” and covered with organic matter like wood chips. After a month or so, microbes will have broken down the body into soil that can be added directly to the earth.
Human composting has become a popular option for people interested in a sustainable post-death plan. Cemeteries take up urban green space (which we’re rapidly running out of) and embalmed bodies leach harmful fluids like formaldehyde into the environment. Cremation poses its own concerns, with one body requiring more energy to be burned than a living a person would use over a month.
California is the latest state to make it easier for residents to give their bodies back to the planet. Washington became the first state to legalize human composting in 2019, and Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont have since followed. A bill allowing the practice has been passed by the state legislature in New York, and Governor Kathy Hochul may soon sign it into law.