New York state Governor Kathy Hochul’s New Year-gift to her constituents was to sign legislation legalizing natural organic reduction, popularly known as human composting.
The new fad—going green even for human bodies—is considered environmentally friendly.
Instead of burials or cremations, both considered environmentally unfriendly and using much fossil fuel as well as having a large carbon footprint, the new method is touted as being environmentally friendly.
Here is how it is supposed to work.
The body of the deceased is placed into a reusable vessel along with plant material such as wood chips, alfalfa and straw.
The organic mix creates the perfect habitat for naturally occurring microbes to get to work.
They quickly and efficiently consume the body turning it into compost in about a month’s time.
The end result is a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil, the equivalent of about 36 bags.
Advocates of the new method are already touting its huge benefits.
The compost can be used to plant trees or fertilize home gardens where vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and potatoes can be grown.
Imagine munching on salad consisting of carrots, onions and other vegetables that were grown with the help of nutrient-rich compost made of grandma or grandpa’s bodies.
Most people in the west have little time or use for their aged parents and grandparents while they are alive.
They are dumped into old people’s homes where they lead a miserable existence waiting to die.
Will a cubic yard of compost, even if rich in nutrients, change people’s attitude toward their elderly parents or grandparents?
Don’t bet on it.
The new body disposal method is touted as saving precious urban land.
Graves do take up space and at the rate people are dying, cemetery space is becoming limited.
How environmentally friendly is the new method and whether it has a smaller carbon footprint needs to be examined carefully.
Let us look at the direct costs first.
Recompose, a funeral service whose facility in Seattle is one of the world’s first - says its $7,000 fee is “comparable” with existing options.
In the US, medium cost for funeral with a burial was $7,848 in 2021.
Funeral with a cremation is $6,971, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).
So, the green option does not offer much cost saving.
Additionally, the remains stored in special storage facility above ground, have to be heated to 131 F (55 C) to kill off contagions so the resulting soil is safe to use.
That cost must also be taken into account as well as the carbon footprint of heating.
The new green option is also not without its critics.
The New York State Catholic Conference, a group that represents bishops in the state, has long opposed the bill, calling the burial method “inappropriate.”
“A process that is perfectly appropriate for returning vegetable trimmings to the earth is not necessarily appropriate for human bodies,” Dennis Poust, executive director of the organization, said in a statement.
“Human bodies are not household waste, and we do not believe that the process meets the standard of reverent treatment of our earthly remains,” he said.
The fact that New York state governor has already signed the new bill into law shows how little attention is paid to religious sentiment.