“Sort of the opposite of a tombstone.”
August 3, 2022 12:03 PM   Subscribe

She imagined transforming human remains into soil, “ready to nourish new living beings.” "If we begin to imagine ourselves as beneficial contributors to the earth in death, rather than as agents of sickness and damage, maybe we can start to see that possibility for our lives." Lisa Wells writes about death, compost, climate change and life.

When the founder of Recompose began pursuing the project in earnest, a law professor contacted her. "I wrote the book on funeral law in the United States, and I just want to let you know what you’re proposing to do is illegal. I’d love to talk to you about it.”

Previously on Metafilter.
posted by spamandkimchi (12 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 


Cremation really seems ... not environmentally great. Why do people think it's better than burial, other than being less expensive? I'm actually curious. I'm always curious.
posted by amtho at 12:27 PM on August 3


Cremation really seems ... not environmentally great. Why do people think it's better than burial, other than being less expensive?

Lots of people have an absolute horror of their loved one’s body decaying. Cremation gets around that by cutting out the bugs-and-worms element.

Lots of people want to scatter ashes in a place that was meaningful to the deceased and the Forestry Department frowns on corpses disposed of on public lands.

People are sometimes comforted by keeping someone’s ashes at home or using those ashes in memorial jewelry or tattoos.

Don’t underestimate the desperate need for funerals that cost significantly less than traditional burials and remove the need to dispose of a body quickly. If you’re dealing with ashes, you can plan a funeral on your own terms and in your own time.

Not everyone is able to consider environmental impact in moments of anguish. Sometimes imperfect decisions get made in the interest of getting through the situation.
posted by corey flood at 12:41 PM on August 3 [11 favorites]


I deeply want this for myself, to not just be pumped full of chemicals & stuck in a box forever. I want to break down all the way, the way it's supposed to be.
posted by bleep at 12:55 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


> Caitlin Doughty did a thing about it.
Thanks for sharing that video, as it answered many questions I had, such as: 1) do the bones fully decompose (a: mostly, but if not they use a cremulator, which looks like a big food processor), 2) what about all the chemicals that might be in someone's body, e.g. chemo drugs (a: they break down, and also, they test the soil for that kind of stuff), 3) what if I'm a cyborg? (a: they remove the inorganic bits and recycle them).

As to the point about people not thinking about environmental impacts during traumatic/grieving/painful times, that is a fair point, which is why IMO people should decide this for themselves before they die, plan for what will happen to them after they are gone, and set aside funds for it while they are healthy, if they have the means and the time.
posted by tempestuoso at 12:59 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I think the whole embalming thing is the default here in Ontario, Canada, but somehow the mosques have arranged it with various cemeteries so that it isn't required for our burials. The body gets washed at the mosque, placed in a simple cotton shroud, put in a pine box (ie made out of 2x4s and particleboard), and buried in the soil. No embalming or placing a concrete vault around the body so eventually the body will decompose but nowhere near as quick as this. The whole process still ends up costing something like $5,000 though, dying is expensive!, but that's mostly for the plot at the cemetery.

It's really important that you either plan for your burial ahead of time or that whoever will be taking care of things has a clear idea of what is to be done because otherwise it is too easy to be directed to things you don't really want or need.

One of our cats passed away in June and we were able to bury her in our backyard. Our main concern was burying her deep enough that no animal would be tempted to dig her out. I had to specifically tell the vet that we'd be taking her home because otherwise they were trying to push their services on us for that too.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:13 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Cremation really seems ... not environmentally great. Why do people think it's better than burial, other than being less expensive? I'm actually curious. I'm always curious.

The other reason it's put forward positively over here in the UK are pressures on land use. About 65% of funerals here are cremations, and have been since about 1980.

Two friends of mine chose natural burials, which are a lot more about the idea of returning to the earth and being environmentally conscious.
posted by plonkee at 3:35 PM on August 3


Resource for alternatives: The Order of the Good Death, Green Death Technology
(This is Caitlin Doughty website, as mentioned by Grangousier above)

I think about this a lot, as family members age. We know some have plans and some refuse to talk about any of it at all. For those of the older generation, cremation is still a fairly "new" idea; they're not thinking environment at all when discussing the disposition of their mortal remains. They want the connection that being buried and having a place signifies, that they existed, that they still exist to the living. After all, many of my older relatives grew up regularly visiting graveyards, often the greenest quietest most peaceful place in town. That this is no longer sustainable makes them fear we'll forget them.
So I generally bring the subject up among the younger family generation, to slowly make its way through the families, about these other methods. Always in reference to what I want done, to make my wishes known in a broader sense, and to introduce these ideas in a non threatening way.
posted by winesong at 3:53 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


See also, liquid cremation.
posted by Rumple at 4:31 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


There's always the first hole of your second husband's golf course if you're into that sort of thing...
posted by Chuffy at 5:33 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


If I didn't intend to be cremated, I think I'd want to be buried with sunflower seeds in my pockets.
posted by krisjohn at 8:24 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


If I didn't intend to be cremated, I think I'd want to be buried with sunflower seeds in my pockets.

Let them cremate you with popcorn kernels in your pockets instead.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:32 PM on August 4


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