Urban Death Project wants to compost your loved ones

Urban Death Project wants to compost your loved ones
SEATTLE — Turning a death bed into a garden bed is the idea behind the Urban Death Project, a non-profit group looking to provide a human composting facility.

The facility would be a repository intended for city dwellers to turn their departed into compost suitable for use in a garden or orchard.

“I love the idea of growing a tree out of someone I love that I’ve lost,” said Urban Death Project founder Katrina Spade.

She came up with the concept in 2011 and was awarded a $80,000 grant in 2014 from Echoing Green, a New York based environmentally conscience philanthropy.

“Cemeteries don’t hold any meaning anymore,” said Spade.

She see the tons of metal, wood and cement that are buried each year — as well as the hundreds of gallons of embalming fluid — as wasteful and unnecessary. She doesn’t oppose an person’s right to choose a traditional burial, but she wants to provide a more environmentally friendly option.

“As long as it’s a safe and sanitary and effective way of bringing a body into another state, I think there should be many options,” said Spade.

She’s proposing to build a three story building where family and friends would bring in their deceased loved ones wearing only a biodegradable shroud.

“You’d lay your loved one into woodchips and sawdust — that would be the moment you say goodbye,” Spade said. “Then a month and a half later, take some soil away and have another ceremony of your own, maybe grow a tree with your loved one’s soil.”

She says with proper care, it takes about six weeks for a body to full decompose, bones and all, into a course granular soil.

“The bodies are not touching each other in any way at the beginning, but once they become composite material, there will be mixing and finishing and that’s when that material is no longer one person,” Spade said. “You’ll be getting your grandmother, but you’ll also be getting your grandmother’s neighbor.”

Spade knows her project faces many legal and zoning hurdles. Washington’s current state law requires the bodies of humans to be buried, cremated or donated to science. If bodies are transferred out of state, then the laws of the next state go into effect. Many states are legalizing water cremations, a process known as alkaline hydrolysis.

Spade thinks it’s time to flesh out new forms of burial, especially since many urban centers no longer allow new cemeteries to be built.

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