For countless years, burial and cremation have been the only serious options for putting a body to rest in the United States. However, people are now far more aware of the environmental costs of these practices than ever before. This has created a high demand for alternatives. One of the most popular emerging methods has an extremely soft environmental footprint, causing people to say that they can have a greener afterlife with human composting.
How to Choose a Greener Afterlife with Human Composting
Choosing human composting for your or your loved ones’ remains may not actually affect your afterlife, but it will affect what is left behind in this world. When done properly, all it will leave behind is compost, also known as humus. This compost can then be used for planting memorial gardens, environmental restoration projects, and other things that will leave a lasting positive impact on the environment.
How Does Human Composting Compare to Other Methods?
Greener Afterlife with Human Composting vs. Cremation
Cremation is used for more than half of the bodies in the USA. The typical method involves reducing the body to ash with fire, so it is more fully called “flame cremation.” Needless to say, this involves the use of a lot of fuel. In fact, Wired.com estimates that each cremation generates one metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2).
There are a few other methods that may be popularly called “cremation,” but that do not use fire. One is a water-based process, but along with the water, alkaline chemicals, pressure, and agitation are used. It is still an energy-intensive process.
Finally, cremation releases many more pollutants besides CO2. Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, volatile organic chemicals, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDDs/DFs) are just some of the possible products. Cremation is definitely quite unfriendly to the environment, unlike the greener afterlife with human composting.
Human Composting vs. Burial
At its simplest, burial would seem like a better option. The problem is that it isn’t done “simply.” Instead, a modern burial is a chemical-soaked affair that also wastes a lot of resources.
The problems start before the body is interred. Typically, the body is embalmed prior to a funeral. Embalming involves replacing the blood and other fluids with highly toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and methanol. These chemicals are meant to prevent the body from breaking down. The problem is that normal biodegradation happens due to the action of microbes and other organisms, so preserving the body requires making it so toxic that none of these organisms can live on or in it. This alone is, quite deliberately, a hazard to any natural living things.
Next is the burial itself. A burial vault, typically made of concrete, is placed in the ground. Then, the coffin is put into this vault, and the vault is sealed. The point of having a vault is to help keep water from getting into the coffin and degrading the body within. Because of this system, nothing that is buried has a chance to break down and truly return to the earth unlike human composting.
One of the biggest reasons that the interment of these materials is a problem is the huge number of people who are buried every year. Enough wood to build millions of homes goes underground every year, along with hundreds of tons of concrete, metal, and other materials. Finally, in the United States, burial space is becoming scarce. A method that doesn’t permanently lock up land is needed.
How Human Composting Works
Choosing a greener afterlife with human composting means there is no need for chemicals, and there is no need for large amounts of materials. Instead, the body is placed into a composting vessel along with natural products like straw and alfalfa. The vessel is closed, but it is mechanically ventilated to allow aerobic composting to take place. The ventilation system is set up to filter out odors, so there is no off-putting scent outside of the vessel.
Since there is no need to artificially generate heat, there is no combustion-related CO2 emitted. Also, because the whole point of composting is for the body to fully biodegrade, no chemicals are used.
In about 30 days, the composting process is complete. Then, the compost is allowed to sit, or “rest,” for another 30 days.
What Happens with Greener Afterlife with Human Composting?
The amount of compost generated varies by process, the size of the body, and other factors. What is certain is that a good amount is generated – typically more than one cubic yard’s worth. Functionally speaking, this can be used like any other kind of compost.
Many families choose to take home only a small box full of human compost and donate the rest to things like environmental restoration projects. However, those with enough land may choose to plant their own memorial gardens or trees, using the full load of compost as the planting substrate. Finally, it is possible to have some or all of the compost spread out in a designated memorial garden area that is provided by the composting service provider.
Will you really have a greener afterlife with human composting? We will leave that answer to your spiritual or religious advisor. What we can say for sure is that you’ll leave the planet a bit greener if you choose terramation as your final act. To learn more about human composting and how it helps the environment, contact us at Return Home. We’ll be glad to explain everything in detail.