I really love living in Washington State. Very often, we are on the cutting age of change for the better. It makes me proud.
This state was the second to legalize medical aid in dying, which means we now give our humans as much dignity as we do our pets, and yet star chambers haven’t been formed to kill off all our senior citizens against their will. Washington was also the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and yet we haven’t been overwhelmed with drug addicts at every turn. And now, we are the first state to legalize human composting. I know this is weird, but I’m so excited.
The conundrum of how to deal with dead bodies has been fraught with emotion for as long as humans have walked the earth. I’ve long known that I didn’t want to be pumped full of formaldehyde and sealed in a big box somewhere. The formaldehyde would turn me in to hazardous material, contaminating the ground water. That’s not how I want to end up. That, and those boxes take up space that could be better used by the living.
For a long time I thought I’d be cremated, but burning the average body releases about 350 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. Again, that’s not the legacy I want to leave behind me. I mean, jeez, hug a tree, people. But at least I’d take up less space.
I also thought for a time that I’d donate my body to the The Boneyard at the University of Tennessee for anthropological/forensic research, but the carbon footprint of transporting my body across the country, plus the emotional distress it might cause my family, wondering if my corpse was participating in a simulated hanging or stabbing or heaven knows what else, made me change my mind.
Now, I’m torn between aquamation, where your body is pretty much dissolved and your bones are crushed to powder, and human composting. So imagine my joy to discover that my body wouldn’t have to be lugged across a state line to be disposed of in a green way. Washingtonians are the first Americans to be able to say that.
According to this article, with human composting, your remains are put into a body length barrel, along with wood chips, protozoa, bacteria and fungi. It’s heated with solar panels. It’s occasionally rolled, just like normal compost bins are. There are a few other gross but green processes, and then after a few weeks, you become enough usable compost to fit into four 55 gallon drums.
This is the only way you can be legally buried in your own backyard in Washington, by the way. But if your family doesn’t want the remains, the company will gladly scatter them in the forest for you. Either way, you’re returning to the earth, renewing life, and not taking up space.
I love that idea. I really, really do. Not ashes to ashes or dust to dust. Instead you become living, breathing soil which nurtures plants, trees and wildlife. Yes, please. I’ll see you in the wildflowers as I commune with the bees.
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