Human Composting on the Rise as Green Funerals Rise in

‘Human Composting’ on the Rise as ‘Green Funerals’ Rise in Popularity


February 18, 2023 | 5:41 p.m

Burial practices leave little to no impact on the environment. Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Recompose

The quest for environmental awareness has not only sparked the rise of green energy initiatives, but now the shift to “green burials” or “human composting practices” over more traditional methods.

Green burial practices, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, leave little to no environmental impact because “the complete decomposition of the body and its natural return to the soil thus encourages new growth and the restoration of ecosystems,” according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. In addition, unlike traditional burials that use 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 practices use chemicals such as formalin, methanol, and benzene during the embalming process, which critics say have harmful effects on soil, water systems, and the body.

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

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

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

In contrast, according to US Funerals Online, the cost of human composting practices can range from $4,000 to $5,500, saving consumers several thousand dollars in death procedures. Green burials, on the other hand, can range from $500 to $5,000, depending heavily on the particular cemetery and whether burial services are used.

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

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

Today we are discussing “body flow” in our terramation or human composting facility

At Return Home Terramation, a Washington-based human composting service, the process begins with placing the body on a table for the family to view if desired. The body is then bathed by one of the faculty members before being dressed in a custom-made, compostable garment. After that, the corpse is moved to its composting 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 organic matter needed for the compost and allowed to turn into soil, which takes about 30 days or less.

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

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

“Our process is the most transparent, gentle and ethical, showing love and kindness to everyone who comes into our facility,” explains their website. “The terramation process ensures that your final act on Earth is one that gives back to her by returning life-giving Earth to Earth.”

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