Albany, NY (AP) — Howard Fisher, a 63-year-old investor living north of New York City, has a dying wish. He places his remains in a container, hoping it will be decomposed by tiny microbes and composted into rich, fertile soil.
His composted remains may be planted outside the family’s home in Vermont or returned to another location. “It’s up to the family what they do after the compost is done,” Fisher said.
“I’m dedicated to composting my body and my family knows it,” he added. I hope that happens in New York, where I live.”
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill Saturday to legalize the organic reduction of nature, commonly known as human composting, making New York the sixth state in the nation to allow the burial method. .
Washington became the first state to legalize human composting in 2019, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021, and Vermont and California in 2022.
For Fisher, this alternative eco-friendly burial method aligns with his view of life to live in an environmentally responsible way.
The process looks like this: The deceased’s remains are placed in reusable containers along with plant material such as wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. The organic mixture creates the perfect habitat for naturally occurring microbes to do their job, breaking down the body quickly and efficiently in about a month.
The end result is a heaping cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil conditioner equivalent to about 36 bags of soil, which can be used to plant trees and enrich reserves, forests and gardens. .
In urban areas such as New York City where land is limited, it can be considered a fairly attractive burial option.
Michelle Mentor, manager of the Green Springs Natural Cemetery Preserve, a cemetery in central New York, said the facility would “strongly consider” alternative methods.
“It’s definitely more in line with what we do,” she added.
The 130-acre (52-hectare) nature reserve cemetery is surrounded by protected woodland and is a natural cemetery where bodies can be placed in biodegradable containers and placed in the cemetery so that they can fully decompose. It offers a lush burial.
“Anything we can do to keep people away from concrete liners and fancy coffins and embalming needs to be done and supported,” she said.
However, not everyone is on board with the idea.
The New York Catholic Convention, a group representing the state’s bishops, has long opposed the bill, calling the burial method “inappropriate.”
“A process that is perfectly suitable for returning chopped vegetables to the earth is not necessarily suitable for the human body,” said Dennis Paust, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.
“Human bodies are not household waste. I don’t think this process meets the standards of reverence for our earthly bodies,” he said.
Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose, a Seattle full-service eco-friendly funeral home that offers human composting, offers an alternative for those looking to make disposing of cremated remains fit their lifestyle. said to provide.
She said it “feels like a movement” among people who care about the environment.
“Cremation uses fossil fuels, burials use a lot of land and have a carbon footprint,” Spade said. “For many people, being able to turn the soil into something that can grow into a garden or a tree is pretty impactful.”
Maysoon Khan is a member of the Associated Press/Reports for America Statehouse News Initiative. Reporting to America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover hidden issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on her Twitter. twitter.com/MaysoonKhan.