What’s Going On Here?
We all know the benefits of food composting but have you ever considered composting yourself? Sounds morbid right? It is…but it could also be highly beneficial for the environment.
What Does This Mean?
You may remember we wrote about water cremation last summer, and it seems alternative burials are on the rise. A pilot project carried out by Seattle based company Recompose has shown the benefits of human composting as an environmentally friendly “deathcare” solution.
So how does it work?
The body is placed in a reusable hexagonal steel container along with straw, alfalfa and wood chips. The humidity and ratio of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen is carefully controlled creating the ideal conditions for thermophilic microbes (ones that thrive at high temperatures) to accelerate the normal rate of decomposition. The process is known as “natural organic reduction” and can turn a corpse into two wheelbarrow’s worth of soil in just six weeks.
Data collected by Recompose has shown that the process saves more than a tonne of carbon, compared to a cremation or a traditional burial. They are pioneering the world’s first ‘human composting service’ in Washington D.C. in February 2021, after the US state approved it as a legal deathcare alternative.
Why Should We Care?
While we wouldn’t proclaim to tell you how to live your death, it is worth being aware of the impact more traditional burials have on the planet so you can make a conscious decision before you are unconscious for good.
Did you know that…
- The average cremation uses 285 kilowatt-hours of gas (cooking a chicken uses 4.4 kWh of energy) and 15 kilowatt-hours of electricity – (one kWh equals the amount of energy you would use by keeping a 1,000 watt appliance running for one hour). It also sends significant amounts of mercury into the atmosphere, as well as up to 400kg of climate-warming CO2.
- 89% Of coffins used in traditional burials are made from veneered chipboard rather than wood, which is bonded with a formaldehyde resin, a harmful chemical which can then enter the soil and neighbour ecology. They also take up precious space in the ground.
‘Natural organic reduction’ might be one greener way to go, but there are many other eco-friendly burials out there. We’ve picked a few alternatives:
- Water cremation, which we wrote about last summer.
- Natural/woodland burials, in which the body is allowed to decompose in the ground without added chemicals, concrete, or synthetic materials (these are already legal across the USA and UK). Read more at the Good Funeral Guide!