New York OKs Human Composting Law; 6th State in US to Do So

Howard Fischer, a 63-year-old investor living north of New York City, has a wish for when he dies. He wants his remains to be placed in a vessel, broken down by tiny microbes and composted into rich, fertile soil.

Maybe his composted remains could be planted outside the family home in Vermont, or maybe they could be returned to the earth elsewhere. “Whatever my family chooses to do with the compost after it’s done is up to them,” Fischer said.

“I am committed to having my body composted and my family knows that,” he added. “But I would love for it to happen in New York where I live rather than shipping myself across the country.”

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Saturday to legalize natural organic reduction, popularly known as human composting, making New York the sixth state in the nation to allow that method of burial.

Washington state became the first state to legalize human composting in 2019, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021, and Vermont and California in 2022.

For Fischer, this alternative, green method of burial aligns with his philosophical view on life: to live in an environmentally conscious way.

The process goes like this: 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 do their work, quickly and efficiently breaking down the body in about a month’s time.

The end result is a heaping cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil amendment, the equivalent of about 36 bags of soil, that can be used to plant trees or enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.

For urban areas such as New York City where land is limited, it can be seen as a pretty attractive burial alternative.

Michelle Menter, manager at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve, a cemetery in central New York, said the facility would “strongly consider” the alternative method.

“It definitely is more in line with what we do,” she added.

The 52-hectare nature preserve cemetery, nestled between protected forest land, offers natural, green burials which is when a body can be placed in a biodegradable container and into a gravesite so that it can decompose fully.

“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,” she said.

But not all are onboard with the idea.

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.

Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a full-service green funeral home in Seattle that offers human composting, said it offers an alternative for people wanting to align the disposition of their remains with how they lived their lives.

She said “it feels like a movement” among the environmentally aware.

“Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” said Spade. “For a lot of folks being turned into soil that can be turned to grow into a garden or tree is pretty impactful.”

Source: Voice Of America

An Annual Battle: Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is around the corner. And many use this time to make New Year’s resolutions. Why do people do that, you might ask?

“It’s a new calendar year,” said Mandy Doria, a certified counselor at the University of Colorado, speaking with The Associated Press. ‘We have a chance to leave behind all of the old stuff, good and bad, from the previous year and move forward and start to make new plans, new goals, and we may feel excited and recharged by that.”

That feeling of hope can dissipate amid day-to-day stressors but there are ways to set goals without feeling like you’re setting yourself up for failure, said Doria.

“There is a concept called smart goals,” she said. “So smart goals should be specific. They should be measurable. They should be attainable. And they should be reliable as well as time-based. So, for example, I might want to move my body more, and so I might start by going to the gym or going to yoga once a week. And then after three weeks, maybe I build on that so I can make time specific goals as well. And then it’s measurable and it’s specific.”

Knowing why helps

Christine Whelan, a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of an Audible Original 10-lecture series called “Finding Your Purpose,” said if people know why they’ve set goals, they’re more likely to reach them.

“Why is it that you want to make a change?” she asked. “These are questions of purpose and values and meaning. So maybe you do want to go to the gym and lose a couple of pounds. But why? And if you can get to that core reason for why, research finds that you are much more likely to actually follow through on your goals and make it happen.”

Whelan said there are other ways to start the new year by making it more of a reflective exercise rather than an intimidating to-do list.

“Rather than New Year’s resolutions, one thing that I’ve loved to do over the years is write a letter to myself at New Year’s — the next year (2023),” said Whelan. “And in that letter, what I do is I think about where I want to be, where I am right now, the things that are important to me, my values and purpose statement, my hopes and goals for the year ahead.”

A goal is a process

In an interview with the AP, Edward Hirt, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, said to be successful at sticking with a New Year’s resolution, one must understand that pursuing a goal is a process.

“Because I think most of the time in many goal pursuit situations, we are really hard on ourselves if we don’t get what we anticipate we should be,” said Hirt. “If we can kind of break down the goal pursuit process into sub-stages, sub kind of goals along the way and can sort of see ourselves meeting those things and take pride in accomplishing those pieces of the larger process, it’s much more reinforcing to us.”

Hirt said people should also reflect on their progress to see how far they’ve come rather than only focusing on the endpoint.

Source: Voice Of America