from the pushing-up-daisies dept.
Compared to cremation, turning your body into mulch keeps a surprising amount of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
In a few years, people in California will have a new choice for what to do with their loved ones' bodies after death: put them in their garden.
"AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally-friendly and gives them another choice for burial," Assembly member Cristina Garcia, who sponsored the bill, said in a release. "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."
Human beings cause more than enough trouble while we're alive, but the practices we've developed to handle our bodies after death are also pretty bad for the environment. Burying a dead body takes about three gallons of embalming liquid per corpse—stuff like formaldehyde, methanol, and ethanol—and about 5.3 million gallons total gets buried with bodies each year. Meanwhile, cremation creates more than 500 pounds (227 kilograms) of carbon dioxide from the burning process of just one body, and the burning itself uses up the energy equivalent of two tanks of gasoline. In the U.S., cremation creates roughly 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
It's a no-brainer, then, to think of greener alternatives. The most common process for human composting—and the one laid out in the new California law—is called natural organic reduction, which involves leaving the body in a container with some wood chips and other organic matter for about a month to let bacteria do its work. The resulting mulch (yep, it's human body mulch) is then allowed to cure for a few more weeks before being turned over to the family. Each body can produce about a cubic yard of soil, or around one pickup truckbeds' worth. According to Garcia's release, this process will save about a metric ton of CO2 per body.
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In 2021, a Seattle Washington funeral company is set to open its doors and begin accepting customers in a first of a kind human composting site.
US 'deathcare' company Recompose will be able to turn the deceased into a cubic yard of soil over a period of as little as 30 days, using one-eighth of the energy of cremation and saving as much as a metric ton of carbon dioxide from being produced compared to other forms of burial.
The company will be able to service up to 75 individuals at once.
the process sees bodies placed in reusable vessels covered in woodchips, alfalfa and hay, and sealed away in hexagonal tubes.
There the corpse's temperature is regulated while its surroundings are aerated, allowing naturally occurring bacteria to break down the body over the course of four to seven weeks.
The deceased is then returned to their loved ones as compost, limiting the carbon footprint from cremations and traditional burials while cutting out the embalming fluid chemicals which can leach into the soil and can pollute groundwater.
If desired, the dearly departed dirt can also be donated to
a land soil project to provide a forest on the state's Bell Mountain with additional nutrients, with one person creating 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of soil.