A new ecological method to honor deceased persons was legalized in Washington State, USA in May 2019. This method, better known as natural organic reduction, is an alternative to so-called "classical" funerals such as burial and cremation.
The principle of natural organic reduction
The principle of natural organic reduction consists in replacing the coffin of the deceased with a vegetable bed, previously filled with organic materials such as woodchips, straw, leaves, or alfalfa pellets. The body of the deceased is wrapped in a biodegradable shroud and then placed on his vegetable bed. Then this bed is inserted in a heated cell more than 2m40 long for a few months. The primary purpose of this ecological burial method is to turn the body into compost. Later on, this compost is returned to the family of the deceased. Concretely, in just a few weeks, a loved one can become garden soil.
The natural organic reduction method thus allows a literal return to earth. Some people agree that the idea of becoming a forest or participating in the regrowth of plants is more than rewarding. This pure return to earth nevertheless raises questions, concerning ethics, cleanliness or simply the interest of this method.
The natural organic reduction: a sensitive subject
This principle, illegal in Europe, is indeed a very sensitive subject as it relates to death. This method clashes with religious beliefs. For example, the Catholic Church is strongly opposed to this practice, considering this method disrespectful, undignified, and indecent for the deceased.
Still denigrated about ten years ago, cremation is now common.
Can we then consider an evolution of our position like cremation for organic reduction?
Opinions are very diverse and clear-cut, especially when talking about the "decomposition" of our own body or those of our loved ones.
In the United States, where this process is legal, a company specializing in this treatment has demonstrated that a body produces one cubic meter of compost in just 30 to 60 days when combined with hot air, woodchips, alfalfa, or straw. This combination promotes the appearance of microorganisms and microbes that facilitate the transformation of the body.
Such funeral costs at least 5,500 euros. A burial including burial costs averages 10,000 euros while cremation has a median cost of around 6,500 euros approximately. Economically, organic reduction is therefore similar to existing conventional methods.
The natural organic reduction method can shock people but after all seeks to be a partner of our environment. Isn’t this the ultimate "valorization" of ourselves?