How would you prefer to be buried when you die? One option you may not have considered is now possible: to be turned into soil.
The world's first full-service human-composting funeral home in the United States is now up and running in the city of Seattle in Washington.
The company, called Recompose, can turn a body into around a square meter of soil (the equivalent of several wheelbarrows' worth) in just 30 days. This saves more than a tonne of carbon dioxide compared to cremation or traditional burial and uses only one-eighth of the energy cremation takes.
The process, which the firm calls 'recomposition' or 'natural organic reduction' draws upon the traditional principles of natural or green burials, but takes place inside the company's reusable, hexagonal 'Recomposition Vessels'.
How does it work?
Bodies are covered with wood chips, alfalfa, and straw grass and aerated, providing the perfect environment for naturally occurring microbes and beneficial bacteria.
Once the body is turned into compost family and friends are encouraged to take some or all of the soil to use in their own gardens.
It took Recompose nearly a decade of planning, research, and fundraising -- as well as a successful campaign to change state law to allow human composting -- for it to become a legally viable service.
Recompose's chief executive and founder, Katrina Spade says that many people expressed an interest in the service, which cost 4,500 euros, due to concerns about climate change.
From trees to mushrooms: Other green burial options
Although Recompose is the first company to offer the composting option, eco-friendly burials are not a new concept.
In September 2019, Italian designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel presented Capsula Mundi at an exhibition in Milan. Capsula Mundi is an egg-shaped pod which connects to a tree.
This biodegradable urn helps transform the body through natural composition, nourishing the tree in the process.
"Cemeteries will acquire a new look and, instead of the cold grey landscape we see today, they will grow into vibrant woodlands, sacred forests," explains the designers, with the tree "serv[ing] as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet."
Both Citelli and Bretzel highlight the irony of using a traditional coffin over a tree alternative.
"To make a coffin, a tree must be cut down," they say. "The coffin has a short lifecycle, but a strong environmental impact. A tree takes between 10 and 40 years to reach maturity and the coffin is of use for just three days!"
But if an egg-shaped pod isn't your dream final resting place, there are increasing alternatives appearing.
Leaves With You is a biodegradable coffin made from macrame, which invites family members and mourners to participate in the coffin's creation.
Designed by Shaina Garfield, the woven netting used includes fungal spores to help speed up the body's decomposition. This fungi is essential for absorbing toxins too, ensuring that only natural byproducts, like oxygen and nitrogen, end up in the soil.