Earth…shall claim/Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again
October 29, 2019 10:58 PM   Subscribe

How do you compost a human body—and why would you? Earlier this year, the state of Washington legalized human composting. Katrina Spade, the driving force behind this alternative burial method, is gearing up her company Recompose to make the service available by 2021.

Related: the Infinity Burial Suit by Coeio uses mushroom spores to help the body decompose.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (15 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It's a pity this isn't widely available now. It's pretty likely that my father will pass within the next year, and will probably be cremated. This would be much nicer all the way around.

I really like the idea of my body being returned to the Earth in some useful way rather than cremation or being stuffed into a box full of chemicals. Instead of a burial plot or an urn with ashes in it, have a nice garden or something. Just please grow something good, not another batch of zucchini nobody wants. Maybe a big patch of catnip.
posted by jzb at 11:40 PM on October 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've been fascinated by alkaline hydrolysis ever since I learned aboyt it from the Order of the Good Death. Not an option where I am yet, though.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:07 AM on October 30, 2019

Johnny Wallflower: "Katrina Spade, the driving force behind this alternative burial method"

Nominative determinism strikes again
posted by chavenet at 2:07 AM on October 30, 2019 [15 favorites]

First, eat organic from the very beginning.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:38 AM on October 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

Do you want a haunted forest? Because this is how you get a haunted forest.
posted by Mogur at 5:01 AM on October 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

There's a Wicker Man type movie starring Cousin Matthew that would be a good companion piece to this article.

I plan on being cremated and having my ashes spread in the sea.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:54 AM on October 30, 2019

for those of us in rural areas, simple burial in the ground is hard to beat for low impact.

i was fortunate enough to meet this fellow at a country fair a couple years ago. wonderful work he does. love the thought of being buried under a fruit tree myself.
"It IS legal to care for your own dead in your home.
It IS legal to bury a family member’s body on your own land.
You do NOT have to buy a casket from the funeral home that serves you."
posted by danjo at 6:30 AM on October 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Maybe a big patch of catnip.

Until this moment, I was planning on cremation, but maybe they should just plant me behind the cat shelter...
posted by mykescipark at 7:30 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Interesting, danjo - when my grandfather was dying we looked into burying him in the back five, and it wasn’t legal without making a private cemetery ($25k endowment for maintenance, quite a lot of land permanently set aside). Also our water table is really high.... Natural hydrolysis? ‘Vicarage well’ contamination? Bear proof tumulus? Bit of a gamble! ... Good thing Spade and cohort did her work.
posted by clew at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2019

I was those seeds, I am this meat
This meat hates pain, this meat must eat
This meat must sleep, this meat must dream
This meat must laugh, this meat must scream
But when, as meat, it’s had its fill
Please plant it as a Daffodil.

— Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain,
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slapstick
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:28 AM on October 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

i really want a natural burial. i want my body to help a tree or something grow. but i have a pacemaker/icd so that is unfortunately pretty unlikely. but maybe device removal will be a service these places offer by the time it's my time.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:32 AM on October 30, 2019

Good news @misanthropicsarah We screen for non-organics like metal fillings, pacemakers, and prostheses and artificial joints during the process, and recycle them whenever possible.
posted by stevil at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Traditional Islamic burial doesn't involve embalming, vaults, or other things to preserve the body so eventually the body will decompose. Probably not as quickly as if there was a tree or mushrooms growing out of it though. In Toronto what this means is that the body will get ritually washed at a mosque and wrapped in a white cloth. I think the cloth is plain cotton. I don't remember if the mosque charges for this service but if they do it would be a nominal fee. After prayers it will be taken to the cemetery and will be buried in a plain wooden box. The grave is a simple hole dug in the ground. The one cemetery I know of charges around $3,000 for the plot.

I'm thinking now that it would be neat if you could have a "forest" cemetery where a sapling is planted above each body so that a tree will grow out of it. You'd need a lot more space than a regular cemetery but the end result would be nice. Or a haunted forest as mentioned above.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:36 PM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

It was the same in the traditional Jewish section of the cemetery where my family worked. My uncle said you had to be really careful not to dig too close to an existing grave because the neighboring plain wooden caskets would be really fragile, and it would be easy to damage one with a careless shovel.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:34 PM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Green burial is an option, even if composting isn’t. See also The Order of the Good Death.
posted by ReginaHart at 4:25 PM on November 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older Irish Chef Makes a Classic Danish Dish   |   Nostalgia for that time when having a cable box... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments