California Has Legalized Human Composting

California has joined a growing number of states that allow residents to compost their bodies after death. A new law directs California officials to develop regulations for the practice known as “natural organic reduction” by 2027. Washington became the first state in the nation to legalize human composting in 2019, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021. Vermont legalized the practice in 2022. Human composting typically involves putting a body into a steel vessel, then covering it with organic materials like straw, wood chips and alfalfa. Microbes break down the corpse and the plant matter, transforming the various components into nutrient-rich soil in roughly 30 days. Staffers at special human composting funeral homes then remove the compost from the vessel and allow it to cure for 2-6 weeks. Family members can then use the human compost like any other type of compost, such as by mixing it into a flower bed, or they can donate it to be spread in conservation areas. Each body produces about one cubic yard of compost, while the soil returns the nutrients from our bodies to the natural world. Natural organic reduction is safe and sustainable, allowing our bodies to return to the land after we die. Still, not everyone loves the idea of turning their loved ones into dirt. The California Catholic Conference opposed the bill, writing in a June letter that human composting “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity, failing to protect and preserve basic human dignity and respect.”