From cradle to compost: the disruptors who want to make death greener
Americans are looking for greener ways to die, and a new wave of deathcare startups are rising to the occasion.
After death, bodies are typically handled in one of two ways: embalmed and buried in a casket, or incinerated and turned into ashes. But both of these options have contributed to the environmental crisis – with fossil fuel-intensive cremation emitting chemicals such as carbon monoxide into the air, and burials taking up large swathes of land.
As interest in alternatives rises, startups aiming to disrupt these practices are gaining steam. New York in January became the sixth state in the US to legalize human composting, also known as “natural organic reduction”, which uses heat and oxygen to speed up the microbial process that converts bodies into soil.
The growth in demand comes in part due to Covid-19, experts say. The pandemic brought death to the forefront of the public consciousness and exposed concerns about its environmental destruction, as places like Los Angeles had to suspend air pollution rules to allow an influx of bodies to be processed.