Admit It: America is More than Ready to Accept Human Composting

Opposition isn’t about respect for the dead. It’s about imperialism.

Valentine Wiggin

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Plants growing from soil
Source: Steven Weeks on Unsplash

COVID-19, climate change, and mounting tensions in various communities have me thinking about my own mortality more than I ever have before. Speaking of climate change, more and more people, including myself, are considering the environmental impacts of our current death practices.

A standard cremation emits around 42 cubic meters of gas on average, which accounts for 57% of its carbon footprint alone. The cremation process is also known to release harmful chemicals, such as mercury fumes, into the air. Measures such as better filtration systems and using simple shrouds and cardboard boxes rather than traditional caskets seem to mitigate emissions, but some worry that they do not do enough.

Traditional burial isn’t much of a better alternative to cremation. Chemicals used during the process of embalming leech into the ground, harming any wildlife in the area. Not only that, but the production of concrete and process of transporting bodies contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional cemeteries also require copious amounts of water to maintain, which is far from ideal.

While ideal, green burials are not available to everyone due to land shortages and may not be possible in areas due to geographical and legal limitations. For example, here in my geographical area, the soil is mostly made of compacted rock that needs to be blasted away with dynamite. This would make green burial inaccessible to many Americans, such as those in heavily urbanized areas and much of the southwestern United States.

In an era of land shortages, human composting circumvents this problem. Human composting does not use as much land as a burial due to the fact that the composting cell does not hold one body indefinitely. After the composing process is complete, the soil made from human remains is used on conservation land, farms, or returned to the family for personal use. Generally speaking, these bills receive widespread support with most detractors being from the Catholic Church.

Objections to alternative death rites are not new from this organization. The Catholic Church has shown similar…

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Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her