Skip the Burial and Compost Your Body Instead


Looking to minimize your carbon footprint from beyond the grave? If a Kickstarter project by the Seattle-based Urban Death Project succeeds, your loved ones will be able to dispose of your body in the most ecologically sustainable way possible: by composting it.

Assuming someone passes away in a city where an Urban Death Project facility exists, the deceased’s family and friends will be given the option of holding the funeral ceremony at a project center, after which the body is laid to rest atop a three-story core. This core contains material that facilitates decomposition, such as wood chips and sawdust. (The process “is a lot like what happens on the top six inches of the forest floor, as organic material breaks down to form precious topsoil,” the page notes.)

The hope is that the resulting, nutrient-rich soil—which project creator Katrina Spade estimates would be ready in four to six weeks—will be used to add to, or create, local green space. Instead of a traditional headstone, family members are encouraged to plant a memorial tree or garden in honor of the deceased.

According to the project, standard burials aren't just expensive—they also take a significant toll on the environment.

“Our current funeral model is toxic and polluting,” the project’s Kickstarter explains. “In the U.S. alone, two and a half million people die each year, and 50 percent choose conventional burial … because of this, we bury enough metal to build the Golden Gate Bridge, enough wood to build 1800 single-family homes, and enough carcinogenic embalming fluid to fill eight Olympic-sized swimming pools.” (Cremation isn’t much better: The number of cremations that take place each year emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as 70,000 cars.)

The project has already surpassed its $75,000 funding goal. Its next aim: to secure 1000 backers in order “to demonstrate the collective desire for this ecologically beneficial, meaningful death care option.”

To learn more about the Urban Death Project, check out its Kickstarter page here.