Human Composting Now Legal in Many States

In life, Ben loved nature. Now his mother, Dianne, declares he would have “gotten a kick out of” being a pioneer, returning to the land to become part of the soil through human composting. “He would absolutely be so thrilled to know that he’s becoming one with the earth and helping the earth recover,” she says.

Human composting is a new alternative to burial and cremation that closely imitates the natural cycle of life. The process uses natural elements, such as wood chips, mulch and wildflowers, to transform a loved one’s body into nutrient-rich soil. In just a few weeks, the resulting soil can be returned to the earth.

Get A Guide to Human Composting

Learn what you need to know about this new, eco-mindful end-of-life option, from how it works to what happens to the soil and more.

States that allow human composting

The first legislation to allow human composting passed in the United States in 2019.

As of July 2023, a total of seven state legislatures had passed legislation that legalized this alternative.

  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • California
  • New York
  • Nevada

However, just because human composting is permitted that doesn't mean it's available. Only Washington and Colorado have providers offering the new service.

As she celebrates her son’s life, Dianne finds comfort in the newly legal process. Sometimes referred to as soil transformation or natural organic reduction, human composting is now available as an option through Dignity Memorial® funeral homes in the Seattle area.

Before his death, Dianne says Ben wasn’t familiar with human composting but she confidently says, “He would absolutely have loved this process. I know without question he would have chosen this option,” she says, adding that he would be “tickled” to know he’s blazing a trail as the first such case for Evergreen Washelli Funeral Home.

“He had mentioned he might like to be a birch tree,” Dianne shares. Wanting to honor that wish, Dianne and her family plan to use a portion of Ben’s soil to plant a birch tree on her sister’s property overlooking a lake in Belfair, Washington. She says they also plan to use some of his soil to plant bushes in planters they can sit with on their balconies. That way, “we’ll be able to take him with us when we move in the future.”

Providers typically give families the option of taking home all or just part of a loved one's soil. The soil a family doesn't take goes to land restoration projects, which improve the health of the environment.

Human composting: coming soon?

A number of other states are considering human composting bills:

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia

Human Composting

How to plan your own human composting

As with burial or cremation, human composting allows a family to celebrate and honor the life of their loved one. Families say they love the flexibility provided by the choice. A service can be held before the process starts, but those who choose the new service often bring friends and family together for a celebration of life after the transformation is complete. That's when there's an opportunity to share the soil with those who would like to take a little bit home to plant a tree or nourish a garden.

Dignity Memorial® providers are experts at celebrating life. We are also pre-planning professionals who listen carefully to your wishes, consider the details that make you special and bring your ideas to life in a final tribute unlike any other. We'd love to tell you more about this new alternative and help you decide if human composting is right for you.