Washington Gov. Signs Human Body Composting Bill Into Law
If you live in Seattle and your grandma passes away, you can now turn her into soil. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the legislation into law on Tuesday, which makes Washington the first state to allow people to compost dead relatives rather than bury them.
“It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle’s People’s Memorial Association, told apnews.com.
Family is given the opportunity to keep the soil and plant flowers or cucumbers in it, whatever they please. Rather than spread ashes over a lake, you can now plant a tree in your deceased relative’s remains. Or I suppose, use grandma in your survival garden.
Supporters of the new legislation cite environmental benefits as their motivation. Cremation releases carbon dioxide into the air, composting the dead body will alternatively create soil for a garden. Additionally, cremation infuses the ground with formaldehyde and various chemicals that leak into water supplies.
“That’s a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure.
Sen. Pedersen says the law is inspired by one of his neighbors, Katrina Spade, who performed deep research into the funeral industry. She came up with the idea based on methods used by farmers who use similar composting methods to get rid of dead livestock. Spade created a similar strategy for humans that leverages alfalfa and wood chips as a way to expedite the production of nitrogen and carbon. All combined, a human body can compost at a speedier than normal rate.
Researchers at Washington State University tested the theory on six deceased humans. Spade founded Recompose in 2017 with the ambition of bringing her project to the public space. Gov. Inslee’s signature on the human composting bill certainly validates Spade’s efforts and ambition. Spade is seeking $7 million dollars to open a human composting facility.
Prior to this latest bill, human composting was illegal. Any deceased human was to be buried or cremated. Many funeral services offer eco-friendly caskets. But Spade describes her endeavor as “the urban equivalent to natural burial.”
Many critics are disgusted by the latest bill, claiming its undignified. Pedersen has received numerous fury-laden emails. But he’s unrelenting in his support over human composting, saying, “The image they have is that you’re going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps.” But he says the act will be a respectful send-off. And I guess, grow a new tree or tomato or whatever.
Support for innovative ways to “slow climate change” is a growing movement. Last year, an NBC report backed the idea of population control as a way to slow down “man made climate change.”
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.