By Kelly Corkery
Q: What is Natural Organic Reduction? --Puzzled in Port Dufferin
A: Understandable, Puzzled! Natural Organic Reduction (NOR) is a method of body disposal in which un-embalmed remains undergo a natural decomposition process and are turned into soil. This process is also known as terramation, recomposition, or human composting. I will use these interchangeably in my explanation.
Human composting is a relatively new end-of-life planning option; it’s an alternative to traditional methods of body disposition such as cremation and embalming. It’s seen as a gentle and eco-friendly way to return to the earth…by becoming earth.
After death the body is placed in a receptacle along with plant materials. In 30 days, naturally occurring microbes break down the remains, turning the body into a soft compost. The company grinds up the remaining bones and teeth (after removing all fillings to minimize mercury) and mixes it into the compost The soil is aerated for another few weeks before it’s ready for pickup or delivery.
It’s common for loved ones to take home a small amount of compost. Many use this soil to create a memorial garden in honour of the decease by using the compost as fertilizer. This soil doesn’t have harmful pathogens or noxious odors and is always tested once the decomposition process is completed.
Essentially, this process is designed to minimize the environmental impact of death. There are no harsh chemicals or additives, nor does it release toxic greenhouse gases. Exotic woods, metals, and concrete liners are not employed as with coffin burials.
The average price for this service is approximately $4,500-$6,000 and usually includes transportation of the deceased and returning the soil home to the family or donating the soil to designated woodland properties to revitalize local flora once the process is complete.
While there aren’t any terramation facilities in Canada, Canadian residents are accepted at Seattle-based companies like Return Home or Recompose. These companies are well-versed in managing the international hurdles and assume full responsibility for client care. Currently, it’s legal to compost human remains in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. California, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, and Vermont all have proposed legislation pending.
Farmers may have been using this type of process on their livestock for centuries, but recomposition isn’t without controversy. Many feel it’s best suited for livestock or vegetable peelings only, that it’s undignified for human bodies. Personally, and this is my opinion, I think it’s a beautifully unorthodox choice. One that I would strongly consider if this service became available in Canada.
Natural Organic Reduction, terramation, recomposition, human composting, or whatever you choose to call it, gives people another choice for body disposal. Advanced planning is also about making choices for end- of- life, organizing for the inevitable. Quite simply, it’s about making decisions and having your wishes known. Ultimately, Puzzled, the choice is yours and isn’t it wonderful to have options that correlate with your personal beliefs?