‘Human composting’ on the rise as ‘green burials’ become increasingly popular


February 18, 2023 | 5:41 PM

The push for environmental awareness has led to the emergence of not only green energy initiatives, but now the move to “green burials” or “human composting” practices instead of more traditional methods.

Green burial practices, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, leave little to no environmental impact, with “complete breakdown of the body and its natural return to the soil, encouraging new growth and ecosystem restoration,” according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. In addition, unlike traditional burials that involve the use of toxic chemicals, only biodegradable substances are used during the burial process.

In 2019, Washington became the first state to allow human composting, followed by Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, and New York

Traditional burial procedures use chemicals such as formalin, methanol and benzene during the embalming process, which critics say have a detrimental effect on the soil, water systems and the body.

According to the National Funeral Director’s Association, 60.5% would be interested in “green” burial options by 2022, up from 55.7% the previous year.

In addition to the interest in moving to greener practices, the cost of a green funeral is often significantly less than a traditional burial, which cost people an average of $7,848 by 2022.

Washington became the first state to allow human composting in 2019.
Mat Hayward/Getty Images for recomposing

In contrast, according to US Funerals Online, the cost of human composting practices can range from $4,000 to $5,500, saving consumers a few thousand dollars on death procedures. Green burials, on the other hand, can range from $500 to $5,000, depending largely on the cemetery in question and whether funeral directors are used.

While both methods promote natural decomposition, the difference between a green burial and human composting is that human composting decomposes a body into a closed, reusable vessel, while a burial is the placement of an unembalmed body in a designated green burial ground.

The market for green funeral processes is only expected to grow in the coming years. With a market share of approximately $571 million by 2021, the compound annual growth rate of green burial practices through 2030 is expected to be 8.7%. In 2021, human composting reportedly accounted for the largest share of global revenue.

Today we discuss “flow of body” at our terramation or human composting facility

At Return Home Terramation, a human composting service based in Washington state, the process begins with placing the body on a table for the family to view if desired. The body is then washed by one of the faculty members before being dressed in a custom, compostable garment. Then the body is moved to their compost bin, where family members can collect letters, cards, or other compostable memorabilia for their loved ones and place them in the box. The body is then covered with the remaining organics needed for compost and left to turn into soil, which takes about 30 days or less.

Green burials have gained popularity in recent years.
JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

The soil is then screened for inorganic matter and placed in a cube to rest and cool for another 30 days. After this, the “life-giving” soil either returns to the family or is scattered in The Woodland.

“Our process is the most transparent, gentle and ethical, showing love and kindness to everyone who comes to our facility,” their website explains. “The Terramation Process ensures that your last act on Earth is one of giving back to it by returning life-giving soil to Earth.”

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