The greenest goodbye: Seattle group wants to compost the dead

Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:05am EST
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By Victoria Cavaliere

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Ashes to ashes, dust to dust - and corpses to crops?

In Seattle, a local nonprofit group wants to become the world's first organization to offer as a service human composting, in which the departed are turned into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow flowers, trees or food.

Getting there might not be easy.

The Urban Death Project is the brainchild of Seattle architect Katrina Spade, who came up with the concept in 2011. Spade calls composting a meaningful, sanitary and ecological alternative to burial and cremation.

“The idea is to fold the dead back into the city,” she said. “The options we currently have for our bodies are lacking, both from an environmental standpoint, but also, and perhaps more importantly, from a meaning standpoint.”

Spade said she hopes to get the service up and running in three years. But the project has significant legal and regulatory hurdles to surmount before it can get under way.

While the Urban Death Project has developed architectural designs for a human composting facility, the group still has to complete fundraising and find a site to build its facility.

Beyond that, the project would need to obtain a license to operate a funeral home, according to the Washington state Department of Licensing. It would also have to tackle local zoning restrictions, which require composting facilities to be outside populated areas.   Continued...

An artist's rendering shows the Urban Death Project facility in this undated handout photo illustration obtained by Reuters December 12, 2014. REUTERS/Katrina Spade/Handout via Reuters