Human Composting - New Trend in Funeral Industry

By Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI
Jan 10, 2023

Losing a loved one can be a very challenging and stressful situation. While families are already struggling with grief, it is the job of funeral professionals to help loved ones prepare for a funeral and determine how to best celebrate their loved one’s life. It is important for funeral professionals to stay on top of new trends in the industry to provide families with all the opportunities available for celebrating their loved ones. A growing trend in the funeral industry is human composting.

New Funeral Trend: Human Composting

What is Human Composting?

Human composting is a relatively new trend in the funeral and burial industry providing a natural and organic way to dispose of human remains. Through this process, the body is placed in a reusable container with biodegradable materials, like wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Microbes that naturally occur on the plant material and on and in our bodies power the transformation into soil. When the process is complete, it will create a soil that is very nutrient dense and can be provided to loved ones or used for other purposes. The soil is often used to grow a plant or garden, which acts as a memorial for those you care about.

Where is Human Composting Allowed?

While talk of human composting is growing around the nation, it is not widely available yet as a legal means of disposing remains. Today, human composting is permitted in various states including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, New York, and Vermont. California has also approved legislation that will allow for human composting within the next five years.

Impact on Funeral Industry

As this trend continues to grow in attraction with younger generations focused on reducing their carbon footprints, funeral professionals need to stay abreast of the impact it will have around the industry.

Benefits of Human Composting

Climate control and global warming have been major topics of debate in recent years. As younger generations look to solve some of these issues, industries too need to consider  where and how they can reduce their carbon footprints. For the funeral industry, adopting human composting as an additional service offered can save about 1.2 metric tons of carbon compared to traditional burial or cremation. While they will likely need to partner with composting companies, providing this  eco-friendly service could appeal to many people. This service can be offered along with other services funeral homes already provide and can help to separate them from the competition.

Risks to Funeral Homes and Professionals

While there are benefits to offering human composting as a service to customers and grieving families, there are risks as well. One of the risks is making sure to follow all state and local regulations governing this service. As it is new, following these rules and requirements is critically important and can help a funeral home avoid penalization or reputational damage.

Another challenge that funeral professionals may have to deal with are impatient families. While burials and cremation can take place within weeks, human composting can take up to 10 weeks to complete. This, and any further delays, can be a source of frustration for family members already struggling with grief.

Funeral trends have shifted over the years. People are increasingly interested in new methods of disposition, including those involving eco-friendly burials and human composting. The pandemic has also helped fuel many innovative changes to the traditional funeral.

Funeral professionals looking to stay on top of these types of industry trends can do so with WebCE. Our growing catalog of funeral continuing education courses can help funeral directors and embalmers not only renew their licenses but also stay up to date with the latest industry news.