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Living Less Unsustainably: Human Composting

John Fischer

Master Recycler John Fischer here with KLCC's Living Less Unsustainably- or today Dying More Sustainably.
I have long been disturbed by the use of fuel to cremate people after they die. Apparently I was not alone. Starting next July, human remains can be composted in Oregon, and then returned to the earth as fertilizer. Cremating a person uses as much energy as driving a car from Eugene to Chicago, and leaves behind just ash, and CO2.
Composting provides a valuable product - fertilizer - without the damaging by-products.
If you think the problem of dealing with human remains is small, consider this. 36 percent of the mammal mass on earth is human beings. Another 60 percent is livestock. We'll discuss the cow in the room, and all the problems with livestock at a later date.
But only humans are routinely embalmed with toxic chemicals or cremated using massive amounts of fuel. It's not a sanitary issue, or an infection control strategy, and until the early 1900's, many burials were done at home - in a family plot. It is legal to be buried at home in Oregon, but you need permission from the county, and the site must be included on the deed.
The recent increase in the use of cremation has been largely economically driven. Cremation is less expensive than burial- especially with embalming and a costly casket. But even green burials - with no embalming - are expensive- primarily due to the purchase of a burial plot.
I have always joked with friends and family that I want to be made into Fischer Emulsion fertilizer, and used in the garden. They don't think it's funny either.
But with the advent of human composting we will soon have an environmentally friendly way to leave the earth- and be returned to it.
I'm John Fischer with KLCC's Dying Less Unsustainably.

Copyright 2021, KLCC

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