This Project Wants to Compost People After They Die

A Seattle-based designer aims to introduce a sustainable way of disposing of bodies

Photo: Clive Nichols/Corbis

Seattle-based designer Katrina Spade aims to introduce a more sustainable and natural alternative to our current burial practices, Fast Company reports. Rather than embalm and bury the dead, she plans to offer body composting services through a company she founded, the Urban Death Project. There, relatives and friends can return their loved ones directly to the Earth and skip many of the steps that currently make body disposal a burden on the planet. 

Fast Company elaborates on the environmental problems that traditional burial creates: 

Every year, more than 90,000 tons of steel and 4 million acres of trees are used to build coffins in the U.S., and more than 750,000 gallons of formaldehyde is used in embalming, so bodies can't naturally decompose. Cremation requires a heavy dose of fossil fuels.

Even when we're dead, most Americans keep adding to our carbon footprints. 

Cemeteries, Fast Company continues, also take up an incredible amount of space—about one million acres and counting in the U.S. alone. 

Composting, on the other hand, turns people into soil that can be used to grow flowers, plants and crops on local farms, parks or even in their loved ones' backyards. The composting process, Spade told Fast Company, takes about 30 days, and she envisions building various centers around the country where people can say goodbye to their loved ones before their bodies are delivered into the composting facilities there. 

Some similar projects have been launched in the past, such as mushroom burials that take place in forests. Composting of animals—especially dead livestock—is a common practice, too. But Spade imagines offering composting as a convenient, affordable and environmentally responsible option in many cities around the country. 

Spade's acknowledges that composting humans will likely not be for everyone, but still thinks that there's a large demand for an alternative to traditional burial. As she told Fast Company: "There are many people who are aware that the current options are sorely lacking and who long for an urban solution that better connects us to our loved ones and to the earth." 

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