3 minute read

Human Composting: An Alternative to Traditional Burials

If you want to opt for a unique, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional burials, human composting might be right for you. Keep reading to learn more.

As you plan for how you would like your affairs handled after you die, you may be thinking about what you want to happen to your remains. This is known as your burial or final arrangement wishes. It is important to designate within your Estate Plan how you want your body taken care of after your death because otherwise your family will be left unsure of what decision to make on your behalf. Having to make burial decisions for a loved one can be a very emotional experience for those who are tasked with this important decision. You can lessen the emotional stress for your family by deciding on arrangements ahead of time. Not having a plan could lead to your wishes not being met, or it may cause disagreements among your grieving family members as they try to come to a decision on your behalf. To help your family avoid these complications and to fulfill your own burial wishes, you should decide in advance how to proceed with your final arrangements. 

The most common options people consider for final arrangements are burial or cremation, both of which are more traditional routes. However, you may be curious about what other options are available to you. You may want to take a less traditional route. Perhaps you have read up on the effects burial and cremation have on the environment and may be wondering if there are more environmentally friendly final arrangement options. If this situation applies to you, and you are a Washington resident, then you may want to consider their newest final arrangement option: human composting. Yes, you read that correctly. 

So, what is human composting?

Human composting is the process of converting our bodies into soil and using it to fertilize the environment. Although it may sound odd, human composting is an effective and environmentally friendly option to consider with an efficient and simple procedure.

Human composting is a multi-step process. First, your body will be placed within a container, often called a recompose vessel. Then, a mixture of wood chips, straw, and other organic materials will be placed inside. After a period of time, your body will be removed, and it will have decomposed into about one cubic yard of soil, which can then be placed back into the environment, fertilizing the earth. 

How long does It take for a body to decompose?

Once your body is sealed within the recompose vessel, it will spend the next 30 days decomposing to become healthy soil. During these 30 days, oxygen, specifically packed with microbials, will be pumped into the recompose vessel with a combination of heat. This helps to speed up the decomposing process. 

The creation of human composting in Washington 

Human composting was created by Recompose, which became the first ever funeral home in the United States to offer a natural and organic reduction for your body. Recompose is located within Washington State and was legalized in 2019, after tests conducted by Washington State University. These tests allowed Washington to determine that human composting was a safe method for decomposing your body. Now, Washington residents have the option of human composting available to them, the first and only state so far to legalize the method. However, more states are already working to have it legalized as well, meaning we may see a rise in human composting over time.

Where is the soil distributed?

Recompose allows you to have the soil your body creates distributed within Bells Mountain Forest in Washington, which is legally protected wilderness. Earth, another human composting option, has your remains distributed on the Olympic Peninsula and used for land preservation.

Which states have legalized human composting?

While human composting was first legalized in Washington state, it's since expanded to Oregon and Colorado as well. More states are sure to follow in the coming years. To stay up to date on which state could be next, check out Earth's legislation tracker.

How to designate your body for human composting in your estate plan

With the knowledge of human composting being an option for Washington residents, you may be considering this as a final arrangement possibility. If this is something you are considering, it will be important to include this preference within your Estate Plan so that your desires are known to your loved ones.

Estate planning is a set of comprehensive documents that express your wishes for your death, who should receive your assets, and more. Your final arrangement and burial wishes can be included within the Will or Trust portion of your estate plan. Within your Will or Trust, you will have the chance to express in detail how you want your body handled. You will be able to leave directives stating that you have chosen environmentally friendly and sustainable human composting over a more traditional burial plan. It can also be important to designate who you expect to carry out your burial wishes. This will help eliminate any confusion on the part of your loved ones. It is common for people to list their spouse or their children as the person who should carry out their final wishes. 

Your burial and final arrangement wishes should not only be included within your Trust or Will. It can also be beneficial to provide a separate document known as a Final Statement that would also include your burial and final arrangement wishes, among other information. 

Yet another option you can use to express your final arrangements is within your Healthcare Directive. This is a document that expresses your wishes for your healthcare if you can no longer decide for yourself, such as when you are in a coma. 

Today, it is even possible to leave information regarding your burial wishes online. There are now various websites and apps that assist you in leaving a digital copy of your wishes on the internet, allowing for ease and convenience for your family members.

There are many options you can choose when planning for your final arrangements. It will be important to decide which options are right for you. With Trust & Will, we can help you with your plans. 

Human composting may be the right option for you, and Trust & Will wants to help you ensure your wishes are met upon your death. The variety of options for making your final arrangements known may seem daunting at first, but Trust & Will has simplified the Estate Planning process. With our online estate planning services, the process is easier and more affordable than ever. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!

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