There’s something beautiful in deciding how one’s final moments should be confined to the memory of our loved ones.
Advances in technology and changing mindsets seem to have people wondering why a coffin in the ground should have to be the only option of final resting place. Residents in Washington state have a brand new vision of returning to the Earth.
Now a bill being sponsored in the state’s legislature could see Washington become the first state to legalize human composting.
The bill, backed by state Senator Jamie Pedersen, would allow for the “recomposition” of human remains, a process which speeds up decomposition and turns remains into a nutrient-packed soil which could be returned to families.
“People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,” Pedersen told NBC news.
The idea isn’t just futuristic, it’s also economical.
More and more Americans are turning to crowdfunding to support funeral costs, with the average funeral costing more than $7,000 in 2017, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The recomposition process in comparison is somewhat cheaper with costs expected to fall around $5,500.
The process is very similar to traditional composting.
Unembalmed human remains are placed in a composting chamber and left to decompose with organic material like woodchips or straw. Air is occasionally pulled into the chamber to help microbes speed up decomposition and in about one month all that remains is a cubic yard of compost.
A five-month study, in which six donor bodies were decomposed, was led by researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, Associate Professor of Sustainable and Organic Agriculture at Washington State.
The study was carefully controlled to prevent spreading any harmful pathogens, a concern which led to the defeat of a similar bill sponsored by Pederson in 2017.
Carpenter-Boggs’ study concluded in August that the remains produced were safe and she plans to submit her research for publication in 2019. If the bill passes, it would take effect May 1, 2020.
Until then, we can keep dreaming of “becoming trees” but Pederson’s bill could open doors to new burial alternatives and ways we can choose to have our memory honored.