In 2012, as a graduate student in architecture, Katrina Spade began researching the funeral industry. She became disappointed in the environmental ethic of both cremation and conventional burial, and saddened by what she saw of the often disempowering and opaque culture of the funeral industry. Attracted by the concept of natural burials, Katrina set out to design an environmentally, urban-focused method of disposition of the dead.
After graduating, Katrina worked nights and weekends on the idea for a full year. Then in 2014, she received the Echoing Green Climate Fellowship to fund her work. She founded the non-profit Urban Death Project (UDP) and began collaborating with researchers in soil science, law, and funeral practices to lay a foundation for a new type of death care to exist.
From 2014 through 2016, the UDP worked to create awareness of the problem of a toxic industry, researched the legal landscape relating to the care of the dead, and performed several model human decomposition studies in collaboration with Western Carolina University’s Forensic Anthropology Department.
In early 2017, it became clear that it was time to start a company to pilot the recomposition system and raise funds to open the first facility. Katrina and her board decided to close the non-profit UDP, as Katrina founded “Recompose,” a public benefit corporation.
What exactly is “recomposition?” It is the process of “natural organic reduction” to convert human remains into the soil. By converting human remains into the soil, we minimize waste, avoid polluting groundwater with embalming fluid, and prevent the emissions of CO2 from cremation and the manufacturing of caskets, headstones, and grave liners.
Everything – including bones and teeth – is recomposed. The system creates the perfect environment for thermophilic (heat-loving) microbes and beneficial bacteria to break everything down quite quickly. By controlling the ratio of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture, the system creates the perfect environment for these regenerative creatures to thrive. Natural organic reduction creates a perfect environment for microbes and beneficial bacteria to thrive. They create temperatures of 120 – 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Theses temperatures destroy harmful pathogens, and transform the body, wood chips, and stray into a final material which is safe for humans and plants life.
This is a wonderful new way for providing an eco-friendly and loving burial. After thirty days, the new soil can be used to plant a tree of life for the deceased loved one or something else. While the loving memory is important, the process also counts, and Recompose and the State of Washington has brought it to us. Ask your state government if you can have this option in your state.
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