• Log In
  • Sign Up
    • I am a very committed environmentalist but I had never even thought of this before.

      "In 2015, cremations outpaced burials for the first time in United States history. And as the National Funeral Directors Association points out, this upward trend is set to continue over the coming decades, with the national cremation rate predicted to reach nearly 80 percent by 2035. Still, while cremation has obvious environmental advantages over burial—think of all the wood, reinforced concrete, steel, copper and carcinogenic formaldehyde needed to inter the deceased—the process isn’t as Earth-friendly as you might think. In fact, Laura Yan reported for Pacific Standard in 2016, cremation releases 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

      Human composting is the brainchild of Katrina SpadeCEO of alternative burial company Recompose. Speaking with local news station KIRO 7, Spade explains that recomposition involves moving the body to a specially designed facility—“part public park, part funeral home, part memorial to the people we love,” in the entrepreneur’s words—and placing it inside of a vessel filled with wood chips, alfalfa and straw. After several weeks of microbial activity, the body breaks down into soil that can then be given to family of the deceased or used by conservation groups to “nourish the [surrounding] land.” Overall, the process uses an eighth of the energy required for cremation and saves more than one metric ton of carbon dioxide for every individual who opts to use it."

      Regulations vary state by state so it will depend on your state whether you can use it.

      "Still, if the recent spate of states legalizing alkaline hydrolysis, a method of dissolving remains with the help of heat, pressure, water and chemicals such as lye, is any indication, this may be a viable scenario within the next several years."

      19 states so far have legalized that method which is also known as “liquid cremation.”

      So, maybe human composting will be approved everywhere.

    • Isn't just burying bodies in the ground how it was done a couple centuries ago? How bodies were returned to the soil?

      But legally, one can't do that anymore, partly out of hygiene concerns, and partly, I suspect, out of the undertaker's lobby. And many families probably are not really able, or willing, to envision the decomposition of their loved ones.

      With refrigeration of corpses, we could literally store them in a freezer until burial, just like we do beef in our refrigerators.

      But of course once frozen, aunt Dolores won't really look like her living self anymore for her funeral... And will be very cold to the touch.

      Lots of us, depend on the illusion of life in a corpse to maintain our own belief in our own immortality as long as we can... Many people are surprised when they touch a corpse and recognize that it is at ambient temperature, not warm anymore.

      I remember a medical student who touched a heart while scrubbed in, during surgery, and said "It's warm!" Of course it was warm, it was alive.

      But corpses are not warm. They could be stored cold, until burial, but that is not accepted practice in most localities right now.

      I suppose we could create a fancy way to "compost" the body, if we can convince folks to pay ( a large fee perhaps? ) for what nature does normally.... Was there some reason that composting was preferred to simple burial in soil? Or cremation?

      An interesting thing I learned recently is that there are cremation ovens for horses, and other large mammals. A dead horse is a lot of dead weight to move around, or bury. So they are creamated. From an atmospheric CO2 point of view, we burn a lot of natural gas to turn the deceased carcass to atmospheric CO2. Lose - lose!

    • I might be wrong, but my gut feeling is that burials are a thing we don't really need to optimize that much, simply because they are a one time thing per person. Compared to our eating or commuting habits (~daily), things we buy as clothing (~monthly) or furniture (~yearly), or the type of big vacation we want to do every other year, it probably doesn't matter as much how our bodies are dealt with after we're dead.

      That said, I often wondered why caskets costing a fortune, and clothing that is created and bought just to be burned or buried, are a thing. Composting might sound weird at first, but at least it doesn't involve several dozen hours of work for nothing.

      For what it's worth, my favorite burial method that is accepted in my part of the world is the tree burial - there's a beautiful location nearby, a small forest that is managed to allow for cremated remains to be buried near a tree of your choice. The forest is supposed to stay intact for about a century, or at least 25 years after the last burial.

    • For a long time I've wanted to be cremated. But as other options have been legalized, I've been thinking about what would be most beneficial to nature. I don't want to end up isolated in a box that just takes up space and I don't want a memorial for others to maintain. I don't even want anyone to feel obligated to remember me at all. If people want to, that's up to them and I think they should do what is best for them. If not, no hard feelings - I'll be dead.

      I quite like the idea of sky burial, because larger animals benefit in the short term and speed up decomposition, but it's not a legal option here in the US. Every other animal - in the wild, at least - has a natural life, death, decomposition cycle. Why can't we?