Howard Fischer, a 63yearold investor, lives north of new Yorkus USShe has one wish when he dies. He wants his remains placed in a bin, processed by tiny microbes, and composted in rich, fertile soil.
“I am committed to getting my body composted and my family knows that,” he said. “I’d rather have it in New York, where I live, than anywhere else in the country.”
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last Saturday, the 31st, legalizing natural and organic reduction, popularly known as human composting. This made New York the 6th state in the United States to approve this type of burial.
Washington state became the first US state to legalize human composting in 2019, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021, and Vermont and California in 2022.
For Fischer, this alternative, an ecological burial method, corresponds to his philosophical view of life: living in an environmentally friendly manner.
The process goes like this: the person’s body is placed in a reusable container along with plant material such as wood chips, alfalfa seeds and straw. The organic blend creates the perfect habitat for the microbes to naturally thrive and get the job done, breaking down the body quickly and efficiently in about a month.
The end result is a nutrientrich mound of soil, equivalent to 36 bags of soil, that can be used for planting trees or enriching conservation areas, forests and gardens.
In urban areas like New York where land is limited, this can be seen as a very attractive burial alternative.
Container used in a study on composting human remains at Washington State University
Michelle Menter, manager of Greensprings Natural Preservation Cemetery in central New York, said the institution will “strongly consider the method as an alternative.” “It definitely fits better with what we do,” he added.
O cemetery Covering an area of 52 hectares and nestled in a protected forest, the nature reserve offers ecological and natural burials where the bodies are placed in a biodegradable container and then in a grave where they can be fully decomposed.
“Anything we can do to get people off concrete floors, fancy caskets and formaldehyde, we have to do and support it,” she said. But not everyone is on board with the idea.
The New York State Catholic Assembly, a group representing the state’s bishops, has long opposed the law, calling the method of burial “inappropriate.”
“A process that is perfectly suited to returning plant debris to the soil is not necessarily suitable for the human body,” Dennis Poust, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. “Human bodies are not household waste and we do not believe the process meets the standard of reverent treatment of our remains,” he added.
Continued after the ad
Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose, an ecofriendly Seattle funeral home that offers human composting, said the company has an alternative for people who want to adapt how their remains are disposed of to fit their lifestyle.
She said “this feels like a movement” among the environmentally conscious. “Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses up a lot of land with a carbon footprint,” Katrina said. “For a lot of people, the idea of being turned into soil that can later become a garden or a tree is quite impressive.” /ASSOCIATED PRESS