SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB-351, which gives the option of human composting.

Starting Jan. 1, 2027, the Cemetery and Funeral Act will provide the option to Californians of using natural organic reduction (NOR), or the reduction of human remains, which involves the placement of the bodies in individual vessels and fostering gentle transformation into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families or donated for the conservation of the land.

Cristina Garcia, Assemblywoman for District 58 and author of AB-351, says that this practice is completely safe and low-cost and has proven more environment friendly when compared to the conventional burial methods and cremation that can filter chemicals into the ground and fossil fuels releasing carbon dioxide into the air.

With climate change and sea-level rise as very real threats to our environment, this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere.

Cristina Garcia, Assemblywoman, District 58

In the bill Garcia, says that each individual who chooses NOR over the other options will save the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon from entering the environment.

It’s not easy to think about after-death choices. Natural organic reduction is safe, sustainable, and informed by nature. This process would provide Californians an option that offers significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage over conventional burial or cremation.

Recompose CEO and founder Katrina Spade, inventor of NOR

Bill proponents say that as the cemeteries are filling up, people are looking for more sustainable death care practices so families and friends can use that soil to plant a tree or a memorial garden honoring loved ones.

Some facts about Natural Organic Reduction included in the bill:

Natural organic reduction offers an additional choice for after-death care that is natural and sustainable. With significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage, it addresses the increasing demand for green alternatives:

  • California’s rate of cremation was 66.7 percent for 2018, according to estimates by the National Funeral Directors Association. But cremation requires fossil fuels and emits CO2 into the atmosphere, polluting and contributing to climate change
  • If every California resident chose natural reduction as their after-death preference, we would save nearly 2.5 million metric tons of CO2 in just 10 years. That’s the carbon-saving equivalent of the energy required to power 225,000 homes for one year or the letting 65 million seedlings grow into trees over 10 years.
  • To underscore the safety and viability of the natural organic reduction process, Recompose collaborated with Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, professor of Soil Science at the College of Agriculture, Humans, and Natural Resources Sciences at Washington State University. This 2018 scientific study found all safety thresholds were met, heavy metals were well under EPA limits and over 95% reduction in pharmaceuticals that were tracked during the study.