"Green burials" may be coming to Colorado

It’s 2019 and everyone is going green, whether it’s investing in hybrid cars, ditching your natural gas appliances or doing anything else to reduce your “carbon footprint.” But one group of people have been left behind in this craze… the dead. What can the recently deceased do to “go green” after shuffling off the mortal coil? Out in Colorado, they may have the answer. A bill is being introduced to legalize “green burials.”

So how does this work? CBS Denver explains that it involves taking your departed loved ones and converting them to, um… soil.

A bill being proposed by two Colorado lawmakers would legalize green burials — which turns human remains into soil that can be returned to family members. It is also referred to as Natural Organic Reduction. The process takes about a month and generates a cubic yard of material per person.

“For most Coloradans, there are two main choices after death: burial or cremation. Representative Brianna Titone and Senator Robert Rodriguez are planning to bring a bill to the General Assembly that would give Coloradans another legal option: they can have their bodies turned into soil,” officials stated.

“The novel approach, known as ‘Natural Organic Reduction’ involves placing bodies in individual vessels and gently decomposing them into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families,” officials explained.

They may be calling it “natural organic reduction” but having grown up in farm country, my family had a different name for it. Composting. Taking the remains and putting them in some sort of vessel and “gently decomposing them” sounds precisely the same. (By the way, how do you “gently” decompose something? Doesn’t it just happen naturally?)

I don’t have a problem with the process so much as the marketing of it. As far as I’m concerned, if you would rather have yourself turned into fertilizer for your garden and your family is okay with it, more power to you.

That goes for other nonstandard methods of burial as well. There’s been an increase in so-called natural burials, where no embalming chemicals are put into the body and it’s inhumed without a coffin, wrapped in a biodegradable sheet. Depending on the local conditions, the body will be mostly gone within a couple of years. That’s fine by me also, assuming it’s in line with the wishes of the family. I’m not quite so sure about having a “sky burial,” however. (That’s the Tibetan tradition of leaving your body on a mountain top and allowing the vultures to eat you.)

Rodney Dangerfield once proclaimed in one of his movies that cemeteries are the biggest waste of real estate on the planet. I’m not so sure about that, but I do believe firmly that funerals are for the living, not the dead. By the time you reach the graveyard, you are already well on your way to your final reward. The question is, are families okay with not having a gravesite and monument to visit and remember you?

Traditions and rituals are powerful things and we don’t put them aside lightly. I’m not sure how much ecological impact traditional burials have on the environment, but cemeteries do take up a lot of space. If they are maintained in perpetuity, we’re going to run out of space eventually. Maybe Oregon is onto something here. Personally, I’ve never been able to decide on my own preferences when the time comes, but I’m sure my wife will figure something out.