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IPFS News Link • California

The quest to alter our 'last toxic act': California to legalize 'human composting'..

•, By Jeanette Marantos

Excerpt: But this kind of burial — natural organic reduction — won't be legal in California until 2027, so Van Valkenburgh paid to fly her husband's body to Washington, the first state to legalize human composting in 2020. Three months later, two women in a Subaru drove to Orcas Island and unloaded the bags of Wayne's soil from the back seat — about 250 pounds of what looked like a fine, odorless wood-chip mulch.

The area looks bare now, Van Valkenburgh said apologetically, but someday she'll plant bulbs. In the awkward silence that followed, her grief was palatable, but then she suddenly threw back her head and stared up above the trees. "This is what he sees," she said softly, gazing into a purple-black sky slowly freckling with stars. …

Towering Pacific madrone trees and Douglas fir appeared like ghostly shapes around the area where, months earlier, friends and family had emptied seven burlap bags that held Wayne's mulch-like remains and raked them into a dry sprawling puddle under the trees. …

Our last toxic act

The American approach to death and burials has changed dramatically over the last century — from families putting loved ones in a simple box in the ground to expensive, elaborate funerals involving poisonous embalming chemicals, concrete or lead grave liners and land that's increasingly hard to find in urban areas.

Over the last few decades, however, more Americans have chosen cremation — 61% in 2023 — for its ease and much lower cost. You can arrange for a direct cremation — one without a service or other trimmings — for under $1,000, compared with the country's median burial costs of nearly $8,000 (not including cemetery fees for vaults and plots).