Starting in 2027, California will be able to use a new burial method: human compost. Governor Gavin Newsom has in fact signed a bill to regulate what is called natural organic reduction (NOR) in which the body is broken down in the soil. California will join four other states in the country – Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – in enabling human composting. According to Cristina Garcia, one of the supporters of the new legislation, it is an ecological alternative that is more respectful and cheaper than traditional end-of-life options. “Fires, extreme droughts, heat waves remind us that climate change is taking place and we must do everything possible to limit methane and carbon dioxide emissions,” she writes in a tweet. “When we have a coffin and put it in the ground, there are a lot of chemicals that are released and often end up in our water,” Garcia said. “When we do cremation there are a lot of carbon emissions.” The composting process, called “terramation”, involves placing human remains in an airtight coffin with biodegradable materials such as wood chips and flowers, where decomposition occurs naturally in a period ranging from 30 to 45 days. That man-made soil can then be returned to the family of the deceased who can put it wherever they want or used as fertilizer. “The rules are identical to those for cremated remains,” said Micah Truman, founder and CEO of Return Home, a US funeral home specializing in human composting.
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