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The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead

The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead

Postby smix » Wed Feb 04, 2015 4:41 am

The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/ ... BY20141215
Category: Green
Published: Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:05am EST

Description: (Reuters) - Ashes to ashes, dust to dust - and corpses to crops? In Seattle, a local nonprofit group wants to become the world's first organization to offer as a service human composting, in which the departed are turned into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow flowers, trees or food. Getting there might not be easy. The Urban Death Project is the brainchild of Seattle architect Katrina Spade, who came up with the concept in 2011. Spade calls composting a meaningful, sanitary and ecological alternative to burial and cremation. “The idea is to fold the dead back into the city,” she said. “The options we currently have for our bodies are lacking, both from an environmental standpoint, but also, and perhaps more importantly, from a meaning standpoint.” Spade said she hopes to get the service up and running in three years. But the project has significant legal and regulatory hurdles to surmount before it can get under way. While the Urban Death Project has developed architectural designs for a human composting facility, the group still has to complete fundraising and find a site to build its facility. Beyond that, the project would need to obtain a license to operate a funeral home, according to the Washington state Department of Licensing. It would also have to tackle local zoning restrictions, which require composting facilities to be outside populated areas. But before those issues can be addressed, the group and its proponents would have to push through a change to state law, which requires that all human remains be buried, cremated, donated to science or transferred out of state. "For this project to work in Washington state, at a minimum there would need to be a change in state law," said James Apa, a spokesman for Public Health - Seattle and King County. Spade said she is undeterred by the obstacles. "There will be some regulatory work to do, but I'm confident," she said. "People want this option." The Urban Death Project's plans call for a three-story-high polished concrete composting structure called "the core," which would be surrounded by contemplative spaces for visitors. Bodies would be refrigerated on site for up to 10 days. No embalming would be necessary, since decomposition is the goal. After a ceremony - religious or not - friends and family would help insert the body into the core. Over several weeks a body would turn into about one cubic yard of compost, enough to plant a tree or a patch of flowers. The compost could be taken by the family or left for use or donation by the Urban Death Project. “In this system, we transform from being human to being something else,” Spade said. “And at the end, what’s coming out, the material that we use – it’s special and it’s sacred, but it’s not human.”

its-people.jpg

'SOUNDS LOVELY TO ME'
Spade said human composting uses the same process as animal composting, in which deceased cows, horses and other animals are buried under wood mulch, sawdust and wood chips. Thomas Bass, a livestock environmental associate specialist at Montana State University, agreed. “The science follows,” he said, adding that livestock composting has grown in popularity because it is less expensive than incineration and is more ecological. The prospect of feeding an apple or avocado tree in her post-life appeals to Grace Seidel, 55, a Seattle artist who has announced to friends and family her desire to be composted after she dies. “The idea of being reduced to dirt and being able to be put under a tree sounds lovely to me," she said. Spade said the reception to the idea has been positive - mostly. “People love the idea of growing trees,” she said. “They get really squeamish with tomatoes.”
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Re: The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead

Postby samurai » Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:11 am



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URBAN DEATH

urban-death.jpg

Katrina Spade learns the concept as an apprentice in Kim's factory

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Re: The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead

Postby mitch » Wed Feb 04, 2015 9:31 am

Reuters wrote:“In this system, we transform from being human to being something else,” Spade said.




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SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE

your-lovely-people-compost-factory.jpg

In Seattle, they recycle YOU!

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'Soylent Green'? State poised to legalize human composting

Postby smix » Mon Apr 22, 2019 5:00 pm

'Soylent Green'? State poised to legalize human composting
WND

URL: https://www.wnd.com/2019/04/soylent-gre ... omposting/
Category: Politics
Published: April 21, 2019

Description: Charlton Heston’s character in the iconic 1973 movie “Soylent Green” famously didn’t take well to the news that the ubiquitous green food reflected in the film’s title was composed of human beings.

soylent-green-heston.jpeg

Now, Washington is poised to be the first American state to test public reaction to turning human beings into compost that could provide nutrients for various food products. With bipartisan majorities, the state Senate and House of Representatives on Friday approve bill 5001, titled “concerning human remains,” the Seattle Times reported. The law would take effect May 1 if it is signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Wes McMahan, a retired cardiovascular intensive-care nurse, testified in favor of the bill, saying he is “very much in favor of the composting of human bodies.” “When I’m done with this body that served me very well for the past 64 years, do I want to poison it with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals? No,” McMahan said, according to the Times. “Burned? Not my first choice. But what about all the bacteria I’ve worked with so long in this body — do I want to give them a chance to do what they do naturally? I believe in doing things as naturally as possible.” The Times said Katrina Spade of Seattle, long has had a vision for an urban, soil-based, ecologically friendly death-care option. The founder and CEO of Recompose, she wants her company to be the first “natural organic reduction” funeral home in the U.S. “Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s real now.” She said she’s worked with researchers who have demonstrated that carefully and properly composted human remains are safe enough to use in a household garden. The Times wondered about the “ick” factor in human composting. State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who first proposed the bill in the Senate, said composting is “just what used to happen before the arrival of $5,000 caskets covered with ecologically unfriendly varnishes and all the rest.” “That’s the funny thing about the Legislature,” Pedersen said with a laugh. “It’s just a slice of the general public. So a few people were simply icked out by death and didn’t want to think about it, but the easiest way to get them through it was to say: ‘Hey, if you don’t want to think about this again, let’s just get the bill passed!'” McMahan said he’s devoting some of his retirement time to growing a “food forest” on his property “so my grandchildren will know where food comes from.” Someday, the Times reported, he hopes his composted remains will nourish a tree with a swing for future generations. “Hopefully, that’ll be known as Granddad’s Tree!”
‘You’re dust’
In March 2015, the Guardian of London published a column on human composting featuring Spade. Grist writer Katie Herzog argued the methods of burial and cremation are not environmentally friendly or cheap. And the ashes remaining from cremation cannot “nourish life.” “Cremated remains are devoid of nutrients, and so your ashes are less likely to fertilize the ground they are scattered on than bird shit falling from the sky. You’re dust,” Herzog wrote. Spade is “in her late 30s, short-haired and androgynous, and she lives with her girlfriend and two kids in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.” Unlike a traditional graveyard, the Herzog said “you could go home with your loved ones in the form of soil.” Spade said people could spread the remains of their loved ones in a garden or under a tree planted in their honor. And even public parks could be fertilized with the soil, she said, so cities would be nourished by the people who lived in them.
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A greener afterlife: is human composting the future for funerals?

Postby smix » Mon Apr 22, 2019 5:20 pm

A greener afterlife: is human composting the future for funerals?
The Guardian

URL: https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... r-funerals
Category: Green
Published: March 10, 2015

Description: In western society you currently have two options when you die, burial or cremation. Now, US architect Katrina Spade wants to revolutionise the way we treat our dead, offering a more sustainable funeral process, reports Grist
What we do with our dead can seem bizarre to outsiders. In a Tibetan tradition called sky burial, the deceased are cut into small pieces by a man known as the rogyapa, or “breaker of bodies,” and laid atop mountains to be picked apart by vultures. Later, the bones are collected and pulverized with flour and yak butter and fed to crows and hawks. Feeding your loved ones to the same birds who eat roadkill may seem morbid to those of us in the West, but in Tibet, it’s both sacrosanct (these birds are sacred in Buddhism) and practical (ever tried to dig a grave in frozen ground?). Tibet isn’t the only place with seemingly odd customs: In Madagascar, the bodies of the deceased are exhumed and sprayed with wine and perfume every few years. In Ghana, people are buried in coffins that represent their lives, so a fisherman might spend eternity in a box shaped like a carp and a farmer may spend it in a six-foot cob of corn. These rituals sound weird or even ghastly to us, from half a world away, but are any as bizarre — or as damaging — as what we do with the dead in America? For most people in this country, there are two options after death: You are buried or you are burned. The costs, both environmental and financial, are significant, but we accept these options because they are all that we know. One Seattle architect wants to change this, to develop a form of body disposal that will both cost little and actually improve the environment. But before we get to that, let’s look at the current state of death in America. Most Americans, around 55%, are buried after they die. If you choose to be part of this silent majority, and if you opt for an open casket, your body will first be embalmed. This means that you will be drained of blood and injected with a delightful cocktail of formaldehyde, methanol, and other solvents. Pumped into your arteries, the embalming fluid acts as a preservative and slows decomposition by preventing the growth of bacteria that would naturally break down your cells. Basically, you’re pickled. Next, a mortician will dress you (plastic underwear may be necessary for leaky bodies) and cover you with makeup to make you look as life-like as possible. This may have the opposite effect, turning you into a sort of fleshy mannequin. Someone will probably fix your hair. Despite the mortician’s efforts, your body will eventually decompose (you aren’t made of styrofoam after all), but embalming makes it take years instead of weeks. Not only are you shot up with more preservatives than a McDonald’s hamburger, but your casket — which has a shell of either hardwood or metal — is then placed in a concrete container lined with plastic to prevent the land around your burial plot from sinking. This system is designed to be impenetrable, to keep out the elements that would naturally aid the body in decomposition, and it takes a lot of resources. Each year, over 30m board feet of wood, 1.6m tonnes of concrete, 750,000 gallons of embalming fluid, and 90,000 tonnes of steel are buried underground in the US alone. You could construct a Golden Gate Bridge with that amount of steel, but we use it to store bodies. But Katrina Spade wants to change this.

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Spade is the designer, architect, executive director, and sole employee of the Urban Death Project (UDP). She’s in her late 30s, short-haired and androgynous, and she lives with her girlfriend and two kids in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Spade hardly looks like someone obsessed with death, and she wasn’t until a few years ago when she saw how quickly her kids were growing up. For the first time, she realized that if they were going to grow up, she was going to grow old, and then she was going to die. “I started to wonder what would happen to my body when I died,” she says. “What would my family do with me?” Spade seems in no danger of dying any time soon. Her eyes are almost shockingly bright and even though it’s winter in Seattle, she looks like she’s been in the sun. As The Stranger’s Branden Kiley wrote in a recent profile, Spade “radiates good health and optimism,” and has the look of an athlete – a distance runner, maybe, like someone who has never smoked a cigarette in her life. But Spade is obsessed with death, and she’s trying to reshape the way we deal with it. Specifically, Spade has made it her goal in life to give Americans another option for disposing of their bodies: human composting. Instead of being buried or burned when you die, your body could go to a “compost-based renewal facility”. The facility is essentially an enclosed building with a three-story “core” filled with organic material and encircled by a sloping walkway. During your funeral service, your body would be shrouded in linen and your friends and family would walk you to the top of the core and lay you within the soil. “Bodies, our bodies,” Spade says, “will be laid into the ground and covered with wood chips. There would also be some other carbon materials that would help the process work a little more efficiently, like sawdust, which is very high-carbon, and possibly something like alfalfa straw.” The process of turning from human to soil is surprisingly quick. The UDP’s website says that within a few weeks of interment, “the body decomposes and turns into a nutrient-rich compost. The process is continuous – new bodies are laid into the system as finished compost is extracted below.” There is precedent for this kind of burial, and it comes from agriculture. “Thank goodness,” Spade says. “I really don’t think I’m the appropriate person to create a brand new process, but I do think that I’m the right person to take a process that’s been studied by agriculture and universities for a number of years now. The research is out there.” Spade explains that when animals die on farms and can’t be butchered, their bodies are processed using “static mortality composting.” About 18 inches of wood chips are spread in a field, and the animal is laid on top and covered with another 18 inches of wood chips so it resembles a mulch pile. After a couple months, the animal is just … gone. With humans, Spade says, all that remains will be the artificial parts of us, “things like titanium hips and gold teeth”. Even your bones will disappear. Of course, humans are not livestock and this process must be thoroughly tested before it’s put into practice. “One of the things we’re doing right now,” Spade says, “is starting to test human composting to understand exactly how long it takes, how much aeration you want, what’s the proper carbon mix.” Testing is ongoing at Western Carolina University (WCU), a rural campus nestled deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the Anthropology Department’s Forensic Osteology Research Station – more commonly known as a “body farm.” WCU is one of five universities with these sites in the country, and forensic students use them to study the stages of decomposition (that’s another thing you can do with your body — donate it to science). The site at WCU is also used for training cadaver dogs, and now, for measuring rates of decay for the Urban Death Project. Spade has visited, and described a recently laid-out body as “beautiful, though it didn’t quite register as human. It’s important to respect the body, but somewhere in the system we cease to be human. We can’t be human forever.” After the project comes to fruition (and there’s a lot to be done besides just testing), Spade envisions using the first UDP as a prototype for communities all over the world. The same way you have a neighborhood library that reflects the local community, you’d have a neighborhood UDP. It would be staffed with funeral directors and function in many of the same ways as the traditional funeral home – bodies would be prepared and interned at the site, and you could hold memorial services and come back later to visit, just as you would with a traditional graveyard. Unlike a traditional graveyard, however, you could go home with your loved ones in the form of soil. You could then spread them in a garden or under a tree planted in their honor, and, Spade says, even public parks could be fertilized with the soil, so cities would be nourished by the people who lived in them. The fact that this idea would work in cities is vital, says Spade, because urban cemeteries are running out of space. At the UDP facility bodies will be stacked with six to 10 feet of material separating them, so there’s no commingling during the decomposition process. After the initial breakdown, the remains would be mechanically aerated and mixed together, so, Spade says, the soil you take home is “basically your loved one and maybe a couple other loved ones”. She understands this idea may be icky to some, but it’s an important part of her concept, the thing that differentiates it from other natural burials, which require extensive land. “There are a lot of people who wish I would make it so it was individual person by individual person,” she says, “and I’m sure I’ll continue to get pushback, but I’ll continue to be stubborn because I think it’s really important that we’re part of a larger ecosystem.” The Urban Death Project exists only as an idea right now. There is no facility yet or even a name for one, plus the laws regarding human composting are unclear. (“It’s not illegal, but someone would probably try to stop you,” Spade says, and a large part of this project will be legislative.) But Spade has funding from donors as well as a fellowship paying her salary (a Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to launch 30 March, and, yes, one of the rewards is a spot in the facility). She also has a board of directors and a host of volunteers who want to see this succeed, mostly because they would like an ecological and low-cost option for their own disposal. (Spade doesn’t have a definite price yet, but the UDP is a nonprofit and she mentions a sliding scale.) When asked what kind of people reach out to her, Spade says it’s some of what you would expect – gardeners, environmentalists, non-religious people for whom nature is as close as they get to spirituality – but it’s also people who just don’t like the idea of their bodies going to waste. If Katrina Spade gets her way, human composting will someday be as normal as burial or cremation, and maybe, eventually, it will replace them both. It may sound odd now, but is draining the body and filling it with formaldehyde any less bizarre? We accept burial and cremation because they’re what we know, but maybe human composting is the greater option. It’s cheaper, more ecological, and it keeps the cycle going: You aren’t ashes. You aren’t dust. You’re earth.
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Washington may become first state to legalize human composting

Postby smix » Mon Apr 22, 2019 5:36 pm

Washington may become first state to legalize human composting
Seattle Times

URL: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-ne ... omposting/
Category: Politics
Published: April 20, 2019

Description: Washington is just a governor’s signature away from becoming the first state in the U.S. to legalize the “natural organic reduction” of human remains, colloquially known as “composting.”

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On Friday, the state Senate and House of Representatives finalized their approval of bill 5001 (titled “concerning human remains”), which enshrines “organic reduction” and alkaline hydrolysis, a dissolving process sometimes called “liquid cremation,” as acceptable alternatives to traditional burial and cremation. Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said the governor hasn’t had a chance to review the final legislation. (Once it crosses his desk, he’ll have five days to act.) If Inslee signs the bill, the law would take effect May 1, 2020. “I am very much in favor of the composting of human bodies!” said Wes McMahan, a retired cardiovascular intensive-care nurse who lives in Randle, Lewis County, and testified in support of the bill this week. “When I’m done with this body that served me very well for the past 64 years, do I want to poison it with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals? No,” McMahan said. “Burned? Not my first choice. But what about all the bacteria I’ve worked with so long in this body — do I want to give them a chance to do what they do naturally? I believe in doing things as naturally as possible.” Passage of the bill fulfills a longtime hope for Seattle-based Katrina Spade, and is another step in a years-long effort to realize her vision for an urban, soil-based, ecologically friendly death-care option. She is the founder and CEO of Recompose, which aspires to be the first “natural organic reduction” funeral home in the U.S. “Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s real now.” In the seven years since Spade formally launched the idea, which started as a nonprofit called the Urban Death Project, she has worked with scientists in Eastern Washington and North Carolina to study how human bodies decompose in soil. (One trial involved the bodies of six supporters who’d volunteered their remains for research.) The studies demonstrated that the resulting compost met — and sometimes exceeded — state and federal safety standards for pathogens and metals that could be dangerous to humans, animals, or nearby plants. (Also important: The soil smelled like soil and nothing else.) In other words, according to the research, carefully and properly composted human remains are safe enough to use in a household garden. Troy Hottle, a postdoctoral fellow with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been studying the financial and ecological costs of funerary options, including “recomposition,” with researchers in the U.S. and the Netherlands. “Recompose gets as close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society,” Hottle said. “In an urban environment, which is where the global population is growing and land use is at a premium, it’s the most efficient and environmentally sound method of burial.” Spade has also been assembling an advisory board of scientists, attorneys, and death-care experts (Hottle has joined as a science adviser, a volunteer position); looking at properties for the first Recompose (lead contenders are in SODO); collaborating with architects and engineers to design the building; and, in the past year and a half, talking to lawmakers in Olympia. Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, who co-sponsored the bill in the House, first heard about the idea while campaigning in 2016. “I was doorbelling and met some people who were organizers of the project,” she said. “This is one of those bills that just gains a following — I got a lot of emails from folks in support of this, a combination of environmentalists and people thinking about practical approaches to end-of-life issues.” “Of all the options for the disposition of human remains, this would be by far the most environmentally friendly,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who first proposed the bill in the Senate. “It’s just what used to happen before the arrival of $5,000 caskets covered with ecologically unfriendly varnishes and all the rest.” What about the “ick factor?” Was that an impediment to getting the bill passed? “That’s the funny thing about the Legislature,” Pedersen said with a laugh. “It’s just a slice of the general public. So a few people were simply icked out by death and didn’t want to think about it, but the easiest way to get them through it was to say: ‘Hey, if you don’t want to think about this again, let’s just get the bill passed!’” The legislation earned comfortable bipartisan majorities in both chambers: 80-16 in the House and 36-11 in the Senate. (Several legislators who voted against the bill either did not respond or declined to comment.) Pedersen is confident that Inslee will sign the legislation, particularly because the governor is running for president on a clean-energy platform. “It would be a big surprise if he was anything but all over it,” Pedersen said. “It’s Washington doing an environmentally friendly, path-breaking thing.” If the bill becomes law, Spade hopes to have the first Recompose facility open and running by late 2020 or early 2021. “Well, I’ll just have to hold on until then,” Wes McMahan said. He’s devoting some of his retirement time to growing a “food forest” on his property in Randle, “so my grandchildren will know where food comes from.” Someday, he hopes, his composted remains will nourish a tree with a swing for future generations. “Maybe a big maple tree with a nice, strong branch for that swing,” he said. “Hopefully, that’ll be known as Granddad’s Tree!”



Life after death: Recompose, a soil-based alternative to burial and cremation, moves closer to reality
Seattle Times

URL: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-ne ... o-reality/
Category: Politics
Published: November 26, 2018

Description: Today, Recompose — which would convert human remains to soil — is still just a concept. But it's approaching reality, with scientific testing done at Washington State University and legislative support in Olympia.

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Someday, Sonia Baker hopes her body will nourish a tree. She’s already picked one out — a big, old Gravenstein apple tree at her granddaughter’s place on Beacon Hill. “That kind of tree makes the best apple pies,” Baker said. “At least my family thinks so.” Baker, 84, lives in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood and is an enthusiastic supporter of Recompose, an emerging death-care alternative to traditional cremation and burial. Instead of going up in flames or into a graveyard, Baker wants her body taken to a future Recompose facility, placed in a bed of plant matter (mostly wood chips and straw) and, in a process taking roughly 30 days, decomposed into dark, nutrient-rich soil. “The kids tease me about it. But that’s such a better way to say goodbye than shooting a bunch of carbon into the atmosphere,” said Baker, who founded the climate change-focused Edwards Mother Earth Foundation. Today, Recompose is still just a concept. But over the past year, with scientific testing using donated bodies at Washington State University, a peer-reviewed scientific paper about those results underway, plus legislative support in Olympia, it’s approaching reality. Recompose founder Katrina Spade says the first-ever facility could open in Seattle as soon as 2020. Spade grew up on a New England farm. Her dad was a doctor; her mom was a physician assistant and environmental activist. In their household, the cycle of birth and death was an acknowledged, everyday fact. Recompose, founded in 2014 under the name Urban Death Project, started as just a strange, daunting idea. Could Spade engineer a way that allowed people, especially people in cities, to bypass the expense and toxicity of the traditional funeral industry (with its embalming fluids, varnished caskets and carbon-heavy cremation) and let their bodies naturally decompose — perhaps in one building like a funeral home/crematorium, where bodies become soil instead of ashes? The basic questions were obvious: Is it safe? Is it legal? Could people get over the “ick factor” of the idea? This year, she’s found answers: Yes. Probably soon (with a little help from state Sen. Jamie Pedersen). Yes. First, the science: This summer, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a professor of soil science at WSU, led a research trial with six human bodies — all Recompose supporters who’d donated their remains for the research. Carpenter-Boggs has studied livestock composting (increasingly popular among farmers) for over a decade. After Spade cold-called her with questions about the scientific viability of Recompose, Carpenter-Boggs wondered whether the process would work with human remains. (She also joined the Recompose board as an unpaid science adviser.) Would the results be safe and clean? “It was beautiful, compost-like material I would have been happy to take home and use in the gardens,” Carpenter-Boggs said. (Because the results came from research involving human remains, the university required incineration of the material.) That material, she explained, passed — and sometimes exceeded — state and federal safety requirements for pathogens and metals that could be dangerous to humans and nearby plants. The key to its success: thermophilic microorganisms (“thermophilic” means “heat-loving”) that quickly raised the temperature of the process, efficiently decomposing the body in its bed of carefully calibrated plant matter. “I was very happy we met all the safety requirements we were looking for in terms of high temperature, low bacteria, low metals content, low odor,” Carpenter-Boggs said. “The material itself was just very pleasant.” Second, the politics: Currently, Washington law only allows two means of disposition for human remains: traditional cremation and burial. But Sen. Pedersen is sponsoring an attempt to rewrite state code to allow for recomposition, as well as alkaline hydrolysis. (Alkaline hydrolysis, sometimes described as “water cremation,” doesn’t involve flame — instead, it uses pressure, water and potassium hydroxide to dissolve human tissue, leaving dust similar to cremated remains. It is already legal in several states, including California, Utah and Minnesota.) The proposed bill combs through existing disposition law and introduces the new term “recomposition”: “the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil.” Current state law, Pedersen said, “reflects concerns as old as organized civilization about spreading dangerous pathogens. Now that the testing has happened at WSU, we’re in a good position to say it’s safe, effective and environmentally friendly.” And, he added, people might want the option. “Frankly, in this corner of the country, we’re among the least churched but most environmentally friendly,” Pedersen said. “The idea that your loved one could become soil that would be the basis for planting a lovely rhododendron or oak tree or whatever you want could be really popular.” So far, half a dozen Republicans and Democrats have co-signed the bill. Third, the “ick factor”: Has the idea raised eyebrows among Pedersen’s colleagues? He laughed softly. “I don’t think this is any yuckier than the simple question of: ‘I’m going to die, so what happens now?’ ” he said. “But some people just don’t want to think about it. The easiest way to get them through it is to say: ‘Hey, if you don’t want to deal with this again, let’s just get the bill passed. Then you won’t have to think about it next session.’ ” Baker has a similar response to neighbors and friends who might feel unsettled about her wish to nourish the apple tree after her death. “You know, don’t you, that the plan was that when you were born you’d have to die?” she said. “Saying ‘goodbye’ can be handled all kinds of ways. And the fact of the matter is, bodies decompose.” Baker said the idea of her body going directly to soil, without coffin or cremation, is “pretty practical.” Plus, she said, her kids have come to embrace the idea. Someday, they plan to go to Recompose, pick up her remains and spread them around the old apple tree — if everything goes as planned. She paused for a moment to shuffle through her files and found, then read, a favorite quote from Willa Cather’s novel “My Ántonia”: “I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire … that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.” Baker had clipped out that paragraph and put it in her folder marked “affairs in order.” “Now that we’re talking about it,” she added, “I might write on it: ‘Hint, hint!’”



Respecting the Earth, even in death: Seattle designer proposes human composting
Seattle Times

URL: https://www.seattletimes.com/life/respe ... omposting/
Category: Politics
Published: May 6, 2016

Description: Conventional options of burial or cremation when we die don’t meet Katrina Spade’s values of not polluting or using up more of the planet’s resources. That's why she founded the Urban Death Project.

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“I had this epiphany as a thirty-something, that I was going to die someday,” says Seattle-based architectural designer Katrina Spade. As she watched her children, (then 2 and 5 years old) grow up day to day, she thought about a time when they would be 40 years old. And that she would be 70. And that she would eventually die. She began to look into the options we have for our corpses when we die, and the spaces and rituals associated with them: hardwood caskets, concrete vaults in the ground, carbon-emitting cremation, formaldehyde embalming, claiming a piece of real estate in the Earth as your own for eternity. “The conventional options didn’t resonate with me,” says Spade. Like many people interested in the growing alternative death-care industry, she wanted a sustainable option so her values in life would carry on into her death. While attending graduate school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Spade developed the idea for the Urban Death Project, a system that would turn dead human bodies — bones and all, in a matter of months — into nutrient-rich, soil-building compost. She pitches the idea as not only a method to dispose of bodies in cities, but also a physical space in cities for rituals and reflection. Recently, she ran a weeklong design intensive hosted by Seattle architecture firm Olson Kundig as part of the company’s “Creative Exchange” initiative, which invites outside creators to work in the office and interact with staff. She brought together architects, engineers and experts — including soil scientist Lynne Carpenter-Boggs from Washington State University, who sits on the board of the Urban Death Project — to design the “core,” the structural part of an Urban Death Project facility in which bodies are turned into soil. Spade hopes to build the first human-composting facility in Seattle. But first, she needs to finish the design and fund the construction of the prototype core system to test and study. She is planning for a location near Pullman to be close to WSU, where Carpenter-Boggs studies livestock mortality composting. One challenge for the research is that, currently, composting human bodies is not legal in Washington. So the research must be done with animals, even though animal corpses are structurally different from human ones, says Carpenter-Boggs. “If we love our city, why should we have to leave it when we die?” Spade asks. “We can be folded back into the city and become part of it.”
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Back to Earth: Washington set to allow ‘human composting’

Postby smix » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:46 pm

Back to Earth: Washington set to allow ‘human composting’
AP

URL: https://www.apnews.com/96e12b7f743b4e9c89a06155471f63c3
Category: Politics
Published: April 22, 2019

Description: OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington appears set to become the first state to allow a burial alternative known as “natural organic reduction” — an accelerated decomposition process that turns bodies into soil within weeks. The bill legalizing the process, sometimes referred to as “human composting,” has passed the Legislature and is headed to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. If signed by Inslee, the new law would take effect May 1, 2020. Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said that while the governor’s office is still reviewing the bill, “this seems like a thoughtful effort to soften our footprint” on the Earth. The measure’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle, said that the low environmental impact way to dispose of remains makes sense, especially in crowded urban areas. The natural organic reduction process yields a cubic yard (0.76 cubic meters) of soil per body — enough to fill about two large wheelbarrows. Pedersen said that the same laws that apply to scattered cremated remains apply to the soil: Relatives can keep the soil in urns, use it to plant a tree on private property or spread it on public land in the state as long as they comply with existing permissions regarding remains. “It is sort of astonishing that you have this completely universal human experience — we’re all going to die — and here’s an area where technology has done nothing for us. We have the two means of disposing of human bodies that we’ve had for thousands of years, burying and burning,” Pedersen said. “It just seems like an area that is ripe for having technology help give us some better options than we have used.” Pedersen said an entrepreneurial constituent whose study of the process became her master’s thesis brought the idea to him. Katrina Spade, the founder and CEO of Recompose , was a graduate student in architecture at University of Massachusetts Amherst when she came up with the idea — modeling it on a practice farmers have used for decades to dispose of livestock.

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She modified that process a bit, and found that the use of wood chips, alfalfa and straw creates a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated. Six human bodies — all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of this study — were reduced to soil during a pilot project at Washington State University last year. The transformation from body to soil took between four and seven weeks, Spade said. A price for the service hasn’t yet been set, but the Recompose website states that the company’s “goal is to build a sustainable business to make recomposition a permanent death care option, serve people for decades to come, and make our services available to all who want them.” According to the Cremation Association of North America, Washington state’s cremation rate is the highest in the nation. More than 78 percent of those who died in the state in 2017 were cremated, and that number is expected to increase to more than 82 percent in 2022. Rob Goff, executive director of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association, said his group has been getting questions about the new process, and Spade has been a speaker at a series of recent district meetings of the association. “To be able to provide more options for people’s choices is a very exciting thing,” he said. Spade said that she doesn’t want to replace cremation or burial, but instead offer a meaningful alternative that is also environmentally friendly. “Our goal is to provide something that is as aligned with the natural cycle as possible, but still realistic in being able to serve a good number of families and not take up as much land as burial will,” she said.

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Pedersen said he thinks he may still want a marker in a cemetery when he dies, but said he is drawn to the idea of his body taking up less space with a process like natural organic reduction. “I think it’s really a lovely way of exiting the earth,” he said. Pederson’s bill also would authorize in Washington state the use of alkaline hydrolysis — already used in 19 other states — which uses heat, pressure, water, and chemicals like lye to reduce remains to components of liquid and bone similar to cremated ashes that can be kept in urns or interred.
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Human Composting and the Dead as Sewage

Postby smix » Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:29 pm

Human Composting and the Dead as Sewage
National Review

URL: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/h ... as-sewage/
Category: Culture
Published: February 8, 2019

Description: Does the manner in which we treat our dead reflect how we view ourselves? I think it does, which is why it is news that the Washington legislature is on the verge of legalizing human composting as a means of final disposition. From the Daily News story:
In the process — also called “recomposition,” — bodies are placed in a vessel which speeds up decomposition and turned into a soil which can be returned to families.

The family could then use the soil that was once their loved one in which to plant a tree or to use as dirt in a flower pot, whatever. Washington will also permit our remains to be liquified.
The proposed Washington bill would also allow alkaline hydrolysis — where bodies are dissolved in water and potassium hydroxide in a pressurized chamber until only bone and a sterilized liquid remains… If passed, the bill would make Washington the 17th state to allow alkaline hydrolysis.

Liquid human remains are not flushed down toilets exactly, but they are poured into sewers. On one hand, what does it matter? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, dirt to dirt, sewage to sewage. On the other hand, these trends cause disquiet. Is that just because they are new, or is something else going on? I say, it is the latter. This post is all my good friend Joseph Bottum’s fault. He got me thinking about this question several years ago with an essay published in First Things. From,“Death and Politics”:
The modern failure of funerals serves as both a cause and a symptom of the shattering of culture, first into the nuclear family, then into atomized individuals, and at last into nothingness—with, for instance, the increasing use of “anonymous death,” a European innovation now beginning to appear in America, where the dead are abandoned without ceremony in deliberately unmarked graves, or their corpses are cremated with the ashes spread across large and indifferent spaces.

Bottum is saying that with the loss of graves and urn niches, we have deprived ourselves of an important means of connecting with the entire sweep of humanity, not just the past, but also the future. In this regard, think about how many of us are fascinated by historical graveyards because it connects us with our forebears.

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I have experienced this in a personal way. My maternal grandfather died young in 1921. He lived his last years in Rhode Island. I was raised in California. Being able to visit his grave connected me concretely with my roots. Had he been disposed of as just dirt, I would have been unable to make that connection. Humans composted or disposed as sewage also is a symptom of modernity’s reduced respect for the intrinsic importance of being human. We treat cadavers with respect because they were human beings in ways we don’t treat animal bodies. For example, we cover people who have just died to preserve privacy–even though the dead are quite beyond awareness of being exposed to view. We bury our loved ones, sometimes with great pomp and at great expense. Cremation too is usually carried out with great respect. People place the urns of loved ones in cemetery niches, in home shrines, or as another example, respectfully scattered at sea or in rose gardens. (Some also cremate beloved pets and keep the ashes, but that doesn’t change the essential point.) These acts are only logical if we believe that the lives of humans matter and that importance continues after they cease. In contrast, it seems to me that having ourselves turned into dirt — or worse — reflects at least an implied philosophical view that it doesn’t ultimately matter that we ever existed. These new means of disposition also reflect a profoundly anti-metaphysical impetus that unhealthily (in my view) increasingly permeates society. Religionists believe that there is more to come after death, and that how we live has a direct impact on that future existence. This is reflected in their funerals and other death memorials. Materialists insist that, in the end, all we are is carbon molecules, which implies that how we lived has no ultimate meaning once we are dead. Turning human bodies into so much sewage certainly would seem to reflect that view. I know that some of this is a reaction against the high cost of funerals. And for some, it is a means of making a political statement about the environment. But I worry: If we ever get to the point that our remains are just so much waste material, if our disposition practices reflect a widespread belief that we are merely carbon in animated form, if we really see ourselves as unworthy of anything greater than being composted once that animation ceases, we will treat one another accordingly even before our ends actually come.
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Calling a Spade a Spade: ‘Recomposing’ Human Remains Promotes Sacrilege

Postby smix » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:09 am

Calling a Spade a Spade: ‘Recomposing’ Human Remains Promotes Sacrilege
National Catholic Register

URL: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/ca ... -sacrilege
Category: Religion
Published: March 15, 2019

Description: COMMENTARY: Because his body is the body of a person — a human person redeemed by Christ, who ‘became flesh and lived among us’ — that body is sacred, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a sacramental.
“Decomposition” is a word usually associated with death: “death and decomposition” go hand in hand. I can readily imagine an NCIS episode in which a serious Gibbs is staring at medical examiner “Ducky” Mallard while the latter opines, “I can’t establish the time of death with certainty until I get him back to autopsy, but, based on the decomposition, I’d say his demise occurred 48-72 hours ago.” “Decomposition” is part of our death vocabulary. But have you ever heard of “recomposition?” You might if you lived in Washington state. Washington state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, prefiled a bill (S.5001) in the upcoming Legislature to allow “recomposition” as a method of disposing of human remains. So what is “recomposition?” Pedersen defines it as “the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil.” Think of it as human composting — in which our bodies after death are given no more respect than humus — that is, decaying matter on a forest floor. “Recomposing” a body, as explained by news reports, means putting a corpse into a shroud filled with organic material (e.g., alfalfa, straw or wood chips) into which air is pumped to “accelerate microbial activity” and break down the remains (in about a month) into a cubic yard of “compost” to use in your backyard. Just to make sure that you don’t infect the flower bed, the temperature generated by the microbes must reach 131°F (55°C) for 72 consecutive hours to kill off pathogens. Advocates of “recomposition,” include Katrina Spade, a Seattle designer and self-described “eco-death revolutionary” who founded “Recompose,” a “public benefit corporation” that could make $5,500-per-human mulching if Pedersen’s bill passes. Spade calls the process an “environmental and social-justice issue” that expands “choice” about death and affords a “meaningful” alternative to burial or cremation. Spade said she got the idea from farm friends, who employ a similar process with dead livestock. (Monica Miller has documented similar processes to destroy post-abortion fetal remains, which is one of the reasons Indiana is seeking Supreme Court review of its law requiring burial or cremation of them.) Pedersen’s bill would also legalize alkaline hydrolysis, another way of disposing of human remains now allowed in about a third of the states. Alkaline hydrolysis involves dissolving a body in a tank of water and potassium hydroxide, until basically only fluid (and perhaps some bone) is left. The “Order of the Good Death” is also working on other ideas to render you into human peat moss. The “mushroom burial suit” is essentially a shroud lined with the fungus that also consumes the body. “Promession” (which is still on the drawing board) seeks to freeze a body in liquid nitrogen so that the freeze-dried corpse can be “vibrated” into powder, put in an organic shaft and “buried,” not unlike a fertilizer spike. “Capsula mundi” is burial of a body in a biodegradable pod-cum-“casket” for use in places where “uncasketed” interment is “difficult.” NBC reported that Pedersen felt his earlier bill legalizing alkaline hydrolysis died (no pun intended) because of Church opposition (respect for a person’s remains per Church teaching; supposedly the Church was concerned about human effluent draining into public sewer systems); but other legislators say that the Washington Legislature had other priorities. Whatever the reason, it’s important to keep in mind that the “unchurched” Pacific Northwest is known as one of the most socially liberal parts of the United States. So what’s a Catholic to say?
Body of Truth
The most recent teaching of the universal Church, the 2016 instruction Ad Resurgendum cum Christo is a bit behind the curve on the “Death Positive” movement, focusing primarily on cremation. The document restates the Catholic “preference” for earth burial (which it “insistently recommends”) over cremation, while recognizing that the choice of the latter for “sanitary, economic or social” reasons not motivated by a denial of Christian faith in the resurrection of the body can be tolerated. The 1963 rescission of the prohibition on cremation is alluded to in the context of its origins, i.e., when cremation was primarily resorted to as a kind of “I dare God to put it back together” response of atheists to Christian belief in the General Resurrection. Ad Resurgendum mentions that, in the ensuing years, “the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread”. That is a bit of an understatement: In the United States, cremation is now rivalling burial as the ordinary method of disposing of human bodies; and data suggests Catholics are not laggard in taking up the trend. While the Vatican document remains fixed on cremation, it does offer us some indications that the Church would oppose human composting. The most important indication is the document’s recognition that the Church “cannot … condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body”. The root of the Church’s objection is, therefore, anthropological. Man is made in God’s image and likeness. Part of the natural world, he is nevertheless given dominion over that world and so remains superior to it. The human person is a unified compositum of body and soul, which, together, make up the human person. Because his body is the body of a person — a human person redeemed by Christ, who “became flesh and lived among us” — that body is sacred, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a sacramental. In its tolerance of cremation, Ad Resurgendum also sets certain limits. The cremains are to be kept together: They should not be divided, like heirlooms, among relatives nor turned into keepsakes (there is a funeral industry subset that will turn your dearly departed into a pendant) because cremains were once a person, not a thing. On the same principle, cremains should be buried in toto: The deceased should have a final resting place other than one’s fireplace mantle, and the cremains (no matter how many Hollywood movies one watches) should not be “scattered.”
Inconvenient Remains
All the “death positive” methods proposed by Pederson, Spade, et al, seem to deny the uniqueness of the human person and especially the human body. They treat the remains as so much biological mass that poses a problematic “carbon footprint” that can be “eco-unfriendly,” and so these methods are designed to lessen the former. Implicit in them, however, also appears to be the notion that the human person (or at least the human body, which indicates a dualist anthropology) is fundamentally not different from other organic matter. Indeed, there is a kind of assumption that man “owes” something to nature by returning as a nutrient. This theologian has previously argued that the Church should tighten its discipline on cremation, because its professed “preference” for earth burial means little in practice. He would argue that the Church should explicitly prohibit Catholics from resorting to organically accelerated decomposition and especially subsequent “post-reduction” (to borrow Pedersen’s phrase) “scattering” of the remains as inherently representing a pantheistic understanding of human life incompatible with the Christian vision of man, death and resurrection. Who would have thought that we now even need a “theology of the body” for the dead?
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Re: The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead

Postby priyateke » Thu May 02, 2019 6:16 am

Great information.Well done :)
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