SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) – Environmental leaders think decomposing the dead may be one way to help save the living.
Natural Organic Reduction is a newer procedure to compost human bodies instead of using caskets or cremation. It involves leaving the body in a special vessel with a plant-based material like wood chips or straw, and loved ones of the deceased receive enriched soil to keep, use, or donate to conservation groups in just over a month of composting in the vessel.
Environmental groups such as the Illinois Environmental Council are pushing for a future of more sustainable end-of-life options.
“When you realize that we have 8 billion people on this earth, we all have to go sometime unfortunately, so where will we all end up?” Ariel Hampton, legal policy advisor for the IEC, said. “I don’t know about you but I would feel more comfortable going to a forest rather than a cemetery.”
Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the bill after constituents brought the process to her attention.
“Providing broader options for final disposition of remains addresses both the desire of people to “color outside the lines” and move away from traditional burial and cremation, but also ensures that people who have spent their lives mindful of their impact on our planet have an option to continue after death,” Cassidy said in her press release about the bill.
Environmentalists warn traditional burial and cremation pollute the environment with the unsafe chemicals they use to preserve or burn the body.
“There are so many people dying from human activities, particularly pollution, and this potentially could lessen that pollution and therefore lessen that death,” Hampton said.
She estimates the cost for NOR is between $5,000 and $10,000 but will get cheaper as the process becomes more mainstream.
The bill was introduced earlier this month, but it has yet to be assigned to a committee.
Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, have already legalized the process. Several other states like New York and California have advanced bills allowing human composting in their legislature but have failed.