New York has legalised terramation (human composting) after death

Resomation Facility new york

State becomes sixth to pass legislation since 2019  having legalised terramation, giving New Yorkers access to this alternative, green method of burial.

A demonstration ‘vessel’ for the deceased is pictured among the other vessels during a tour of the Return Home funeral home which specializes in human composting in Auburn, Washington, in March.
A demonstration ‘vessel’ for the deceased is pictured at the Return Home funeral home which specialises in human composting in Auburn, Washington. Photograph: Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images.

New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, on Saturday legalised natural organic reduction, popularly known as human composting or terramation, after death.

The legislative move makes the state the sixth to do so since 2019 and gives New Yorkers access to an alternative, green method of burial deemed environmentally friendly.

But the departed may not be simply tossed on the compost heap: remains must be delivered to a cemetery corporation certified as an organic reduction facility, suitably contained and ventilated, and not containing “a battery, battery pack, power cell, radioactive implant, or radioactive device”.

Washington became the first state to legalise human composting in 2019, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021, then Vermont and California later in 2022. New York’s legislation, A382, passed both assemblies over the summer.

In most cases, the deceased is placed into a reusable, semi-open vessel containing suitable bedding – wood chips, alfalfa or straw – ideal for microbes to go about their work. At the end of the process, a heaped cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil, equivalent to 36 bags of soil is produced that can then be used as fertiliser.

“Every single thing we can do to turn people away from concrete liners and fancy caskets and embalming, we ought to do and be supportive of,” said Michelle Menter, manager at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve in central New York. Menter said her business would strongly consider the method.

Resomation Facility new yorkHochul had found herself in a political dilemma over the issue. She has said that she is a proud Irish-American and has often spoken of how her Irish, Catholic roots influenced her political outlook.

The New York State Catholic Conference had encouraged church followers to pressure Hochul to veto the bill. The organisation argued that the process “does not provide the respect due to bodily remains”, according to the Catholic Courier.

“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 organisation, said in a statement.

On the flip side, the art collective Order of the Good Death urged the governor to committee her signature, and offered a series of decorative, coloured cards reading “Compost Me” and “I Want to Be a Tree” to send on to the governor.

Others argued that people want a method of disposition in keeping with how they lived their lives. “Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” said Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a green funeral home in Seattle that offers human composting.

“For a lot of folks being turned into soil that can be turned to grow into a garden or tree is pretty impactful,” Spade told the Associated Press. Other pioneers of natural organic reduction offer not only human composting services, green burials and water cremation (AKA Resomation).

Proponents of terramation says the process is economical as well as environmental, with the body transforming in a matter of weeks.

Further information on terramation can be found here.

You can learn all about terramation and much more when being trained as a funeral celebrant with the UK Society of Celebrants. Have you got what it takes? Train to be a funeral celebrant with the UK’s first choice in celebrant training. Click here for more information.

Original article can be found here.