Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, September 29, 2022

‘I’ve always wanted to be a tree’: Human composting starts to catch on

TreeCalifornia Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a bill into law that requires state regulators to create a program for “natural organic reduction” by 2027, making California the fifth state to pass such legislation.

Individuals may now choose controlled decomposition by a funeral service provider, which allows them to be laid to rest in steel vessels surrounded by wood chips for the purpose of becoming compost. The process takes about two months and creates 1-2 cubic yards of compost to be used in gardens and conservation projects.

This is a prime example of how customs surrounding death are changing due to concerns about environmental impact. Proponents of human composting point out the benefits of forgoing cremation or caskets and being returned to the Earth. The idea grew from cutting down on carbon dioxide pollution required for cremation, and eliminating the amount of steel, concrete, and land required for traditional burial process.

Washington state was the first to pass this type of legislation. Four state funeral facilities are now licensed to perform these services and 252 individuals have had their remains composted. While this number is only a fraction of individuals who have passed away since the legislation passed in 2019, companies are reporting that demand for services is growing amongst those who have not yet passed away. Many have signed up for the services and begun making monthly payments in preparation for death.

For more information see  Evan Bush “‘I’ve always wanted to be a tree’: Human composting starts to catch on," NBC News, September 27, 2022.

Special thanks to Stephen Sanders (Austin, Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.


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