(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s(D-Bell Gardens) Assembly Bill (AB) 351, which would give Californians another legal option for human remains, was signed by the Governor today.
The approach, known as natural organic reduction (NOR) or the reduction of human remains, involves placing bodies in individual vessels and fostering gentle transformation into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families or donated to conservation land. The result is a completely safe and economical method of final disposition that offers additional choice for people to direct their final wishes. The process is proven more environmentally sound than burial, which can leach chemicals into the ground, or cremation, which uses fossil fuels and releases earth-warming carbon dioxide.
“AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally-friendly and gives them another choice for burial,” commented Garcia. “The wildfires, extreme drought and heat dome we just experienced remind us that climate change is real and detrimental and we must do everything we can to reduce methane and CO2 emissions. This is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere and will actually capture CO2 in our soil and trees. For each individual who chooses NOR over conventional burial or cremation, the process saves the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon from entering the environment.”
"Recompose is thrilled that the options for nature-based death care in California have expanded. Natural organic reduction is safe and sustainable, allowing our bodies to return to the land after we die.” said Recompose CEO and founder Katrina Spade, inventor of NOR. Recompose is a death care company who has just begun been offering natural organic reduction services since 2020.
Tom Harries, Earth CEO and co-founder: "This is a question of consumer choice, and Californians should have access to a deathcare option that is natural, carbon neutral, and a sustainable alternative to cremation or burial. We believe soil transformation empowers people to fully live out their values of sustainability and repair the earth for future generations. We're grateful for Assemblymember Garcia's leadership on this issue and look forward to bringing soil transformation to California so that anyone can make this choice for themselves or to honor their loved ones”
As cemeteries fill up and people look for more sustainable death care practices, Recompose hopes to one day offer its service to the California public, so that friends and family can use the soil to plant a tree or memorial garden honoring loved ones.
“Trees are important carbon breaks for the environment,” said Garcia. “They are the best filters for air quality and if more people participate in organic reduction and tree-planting, we can help with California’s carbon footprint. This bill has been in the works for the last 3 years and I am very happy that it was signed into law. I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.
About Natural Organic Reduction:
Natural organic reduction offers an additional choice for after-death care that is natural and sustainable. With significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage, it addresses increasing demand for green alternatives:
- California's rate of cremation was 66.7 percent for 2018, according to estimates by the National Funeral Directors Association. But cremation requires fossil fuels and emits CO2 into the atmosphere, polluting and contributing to climate change.
- If every California resident chose natural reduction as their after-death preference, we would save nearly 2.5 million metric tons of CO2 in just 10 years. That’s carbon-savings equivalent of the energy required to power 225,000 homes for one year or the letting 65 million seedlings grow into trees over 10 years
- To underscore the safety and viability of the natural organic reduction process, Recompose collaborated with Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, professor of Soil Science at the College of Agriculture, Humans, and Natural Resources Sciences at Washington State University. This 2018 scientific study found all safety thresholds were met, heavy metals were well under EPA limits, and over 95% reduction in pharmaceuticals that were tracked during the study.
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