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  • Ashes to Soil? Is Human Composting Real?

    A lone tree in a meadow during sunset. Symbolizing human composting. Outlining your wishes for burial and funeral arrangements should be something you include in your estate plan. In fact, our law firm provides each of our estate planning clients with their own Funeral Arrangements Form to complete so their families know exactly what they want at the end of their life. And though it may sound jarring, human composting is in fact an alternative that is increasing in popularity. As more people look to adopt environmentally sustainable practices not only in life, but now also in death, this “green” alternative may become more of a norm in the future.

    What Is Human Composting?

    Human composting is the term for natural organic reduction. This process turns human remains into soil. That soil is returned to the earth and used to enrich soil health. This process reduces carbon emissions caused by traditional burial and cremation methods.

    How Does Human Composting Work?

    Family members whose loved ones have chosen to have their bodies disposed of this way can expect a process that contains the following steps:

    • The deceased’s body is put into a steel container along with alfalfa, wood chips, and straw.
    • Through the application of heat and oxygen, the decomposition of the remains is sped up, leaving nutrient-rich soil.
    • Throughout the process of decomposition, the contents of the steel container are blended to ensure that bone fragments are crushed and become a part of the soil.
    • Any medical devices or inorganic materials (e.g., breast implants, pacemakers, etc.) are removed from the final soil product.
    • The family may choose to have their loved one’s remains returned to them, or they may donate the soil to a conservation organization.

    Human Composting Law: Is it Legal in Florida?

    Natural organic reduction remains a niche in the death care profession. Very few states have made the process legal and, unfortunately, Florida has not made the process legal yet. However, there are several states that have legalized human composting, and many of these states will accept the body of someone who resided in a different state.

    Natural Organic Reduction: Pros, Cons, and Costs

    Natural organic reduction is growing in popularity. Most people who are in favor of the practice cite the positive impact the process can have on slowing climate change.

    A typical cremation burns a large amount of fossil fuel, which experts believe can contribute to raising the global temperature. When untreated ashes enter the environment, they may disrupt the balance of soil and plant health.

    Also arguing that traditional burial of caskets pollutes the soil and consumes valuable land, proponents of human composting may pursue the practice as a way to reduce the negative effects of both traditional burial and cremation.

    Cost Comparisons

    According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the cost of traditional final arrangements has risen over the past several years. In 2021, the nationwide median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation services was $6,970. The median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial was $7,848.

    Nationwide data does not yet exist for the median costs of natural organic reduction. Several companies offer the service in states where natural organic reduction is legal and the cost range from $3,000 – $7,000.

    Whatever your burial or funeral wishes, we can incorporate them into your estate plan!