Nevada Becomes Seventh State to Legalize Human Composting
“Natural organic reduction” is a silver lining for many residents of the silver state.
Joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, California, and New York, Nevada legalized a process called “natural organic reduction” with AB289. Natural organic reduction, also known as human composting or soil transformation, provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to cremation and traditional burial. This legislation allows more Nevadans to receive death care that reflects their values.
Assemblyman Max Carter (D), one of the bill’s sponsors, was overcome with grief when his mother died. He only found solace in honoring his deceased mother’s wishes and wanted to give that to his home state, Nevada. He wanted to extend that comfort to other Nevadans by allowing us to choose to compost our bodies or the bodies of our deceased loved ones.
Despite what some people may think, human composting is not as simple as leaving a human body out to rot in the infamously hot Nevada sun. In this process, the body is taken to a specialized facility. When it arrives at the facility, it is wrapped in a biodegradable shroud in an individual vessel with organic mulch, wood chips, and wildflowers. After that, the body is laid to rest in the vessel for 45 days to allow the deceased’s microbiome to do the rest of the work.
After the 45 days have passed, around a cubic yard of soil is left from the process. The family may use this soil anywhere they would use any other soil, such as when planting a tree or a garden. If the family does not wish to take any soil, the facility may use it for other purposes. For example in the Pacific northwest, this soil is used to replenish nutrient-depleted areas of forest.
As the rest of the US — and perhaps the world — catches onto this form of death care, it indicates, not only that our perception of death and dying is changing, but that American culture as a whole is changing as well. More and more of us are willing to challenge current social norms and institutions, even those that have been long-established. Many of us are becoming more environmentally and socially conscious and, as the culture of the living changes, so too does our death culture change.