Dust to Dust

Composting on a human scale

A couple years ago, a friend from West Virginia opted to have a green burial. I’d gotten to know Bill through our photography and environmental work on oil and gas issues, aka ‘fracking.’ We also had a shared interest in solar energy, and eventually, even drove the same electric vehicle, a Chevy Bolt. While I didn’t make it down to Bill’s green funeral service, his example ‘planted a seed’ that grew even further while reading yesterday’s story in The Seattle Times…

Katrina Spade researched her options, which were limited to traditional burial (too toxic and expensive), cremation (too carbon-intensive) and rural green burial (too rare and inconvenient for most city dwellers). She started thinking about composting as a kind of soil-based cremation and, in 2013, finished her Master’s thesis: “Of Dirt and Decomposition: Proposing a Place for the Urban Dead.”
The story continues: One immense object dominates the space, looking like an enormous fragment of white honeycomb. These are Recompose’s 10 “vessels,” each a hexagon enclosing a steel cylinder full of soil. One day in mid-January, eight decedents were already inside eight vessels, undergoing the process of natural organic reduction (NOR) or, more colloquially, human composting. One vessel contained the remains of Ernest “Ernie” Brooks II, a renowned underwater photographer. Organic-farming pioneer Robert “Amigo Bob” Cantisano lay in a second. A third held Paulie Bontrager, a committed environmentalist, vegan and nature lover from West Virginia who died unexpectedly while visiting her daughter in Burien.

Full story: Recompose, the first human-composting funeral home in the U.S., is now open for business
by @brendankiley – Seattle Times

I found it particularly interesting, that within 30-days your body could become ‘fresh soil’ that only needs aeration for a few weeks before nonorganic items can be sifted out for recycling or disposal. Think: gold or silver fillings, pacemakers and artificial titanium joints.

This could be an easy segue for me, from the current plan for cremation. It would be a much larger ‘leap of faith’ for those wishing for a full body burial. Personal and religious beliefs don’t always agree on whether there is life after death, or to take that a step further, reincarnation.

Some believe it’s important to have a gravesite for future remembrance, a place to visit on Memorial Day, while many graves aren’t visited very often, decorated with flowers, or may even go untended. Again, huge differences in traditions, beliefs and budgets.

Flowers with Heart

Cremation requires a lot of natural gas and emits air pollutants, while a full body burial requires embalming chemicals, likely adding to the reasons Bill chose a green burial.

Worm food. Compost. Dust to dust. Makes sense to me!

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