Composting one human creates two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil. Legalizing the practice allows us truly to return “from dust to dust.”
Traditional burial, in a coffin, takes a huge toll on the environment.
Every year Americans cut down 4 million acres of hardwood forest to bury our dead.
Once our bodies are “preserved” and sealed into wooden or metal caskets, they are buried in vast fields of granite tombstones, along with nearly a million gallons of formaldehyde per year.
These cemeteries or “memorial parks” — which together use up a million acres of otherwise fertile U.S. land — are typically covered in heavily watered and synthetically fertilized lawns.
Cremation, which shoots tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, isn’t much better.
But dying doesn’t have to harm the earth. Burying our bodies directly into the soil without any chemical preservatives would actually enrich it, as it has done for millions of years.
Unfortunately this ancient, natural way of handling death doesn’t sit well with civilized people who are terrified of the thought of putting bodies directly into the earth and letting them decompose (somehow we’ve convinced ourselves trying to mummify them is less creepy).
A new process called “human composting” or “recomposition” makes the process less scary for people.
A public benefit corporation called Recompose has come up with a method of “gently converting human remains into soil.”
Un-embalmed bodies are wrapped in a biodegradable shroud and placed inside reusable, hexagonal vessels, alongside organic materials like wood chips, alfalfa, and straw.
Microbes and oxygen are added to accelerate the composting process and four weeks later, your loved one is transformed into two wheelbarrows’ full of nutrient-rich soil, which can be added to your home garden or scattered as cremation ashes are.
Washington State became the first state to legalize the practice on April 26. The law will go into effect May 1, 2020.
“Recompose gets as close to the natural process of decomposition you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society,” Environmental Protection Agency postdoctoral fellow and Recompose advisor Troy Hottle told the Seattle Times.
“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.”