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Burial or cremation? Arizona lawmakers consider bill that provides eco-friendly third option

By Jason Barry

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    PHOENIX (KPHO) — When a loved one passes away, Arizonans have two basic options: a traditional burial or cremation. But state lawmakers are now considering a new, greener alternative.

Will Humble, the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, says a growing number of people across the country are choosing to have their bodies disposed of after death in a more environmentally friendly way. It’s called human composting, or natural organic reduction. Instead of someone being cremated, their remains are turned into fertile soil that can be used in a family member’s garden or backyard.

“People have different things they want to do,” Humble said. “Right now, Arizona statutes aren’t aligned with what a lot of people want to do, which is have remains handled in a way that’s greener and more consistent with their values.”

Oregon, New York, California, Washington, New Jersey, Vermont and Nevada currently have laws on the books allowing human composting. Arizona could be number eight. State lawmaker Laurin Hendrix (R-Mesa) just introduced HB 2081, legislation that some are calling the “Grandpa in the Garden” bill. It would change Arizona’s funeral services law to allow eco-friendly options as a way to dispose of a body after death.

“Some people get a little ghoulish feel when they think about burying a loved one in the backyard,” Rep. Hendrix said. “But the majority, after giving it more thought, support it, seeing it as an option, an option that’s not for everyone, but it is for some.”

The average price to turn human remains into fertile soil is around $5,000. That’s significantly less than a traditional burial, which can run over $12,000. A basic cremation can cost around $1,000 -$2,000.

Arizona’s Family asked a number of people what they think about “going green” when they lose a loved one.

“I guess it’s a way to renew their life,” said James Benoit of Phoenix. “Once they see that flower in the garden or something, it’s like that reminds me of grandma or grandpa.”

“I do think it seems more natural, seems better for the environment because you are not burning things,” Ilia Iliev said.

“I think I like it; there’s less waste,” said Vialou Morales. “It feels like it’s good for the earth, so why not.”

“It just doesn’t seem right, doesn’t feel right, actually,” Trayton Nepfumbada said. “I wouldn’t want to go into the backyard and say, ‘Look at grandpa, he just made a bunch of tomatoes for us.’”

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