The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

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.

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

8 thoughts on “Human Composting

  1. Helen says:

    This is fascinating! Colin and I have always planned on cremation too, but I like this better. The article you referred to says it’s about the same price as cremation. For us here in fL though, finding a place that will do this locally may be problematic. I’m going to investigate. Thanks for the tip!

    1. You’re very welcome! I’m fairly certain that Washington is currently the only state where it’s legal, but let’s hope that changes quickly.

  2. Carole says:

    LOL. Forty years ago, My Mother-in-law, gave me a beautiful tin box. I immediately knew I wanted my ashes to be placed in that box. The whole family has agreed to bury my ashes in a secured manner near the Catfish Pond my husband built for me. There is to be a small Plaque that says “Go ahead Carole, make waves.”
    For those that know me … it is a fitting tribute.

  3. Lyn says:

    Well that should guarantee you never become one of these corpses put on display … So becoming garden fertilizer will have you you literally pushing up daisies. Yeah Washington! The state that assists in your humane expedited death and disposal. Better move there before I die and miss out on the benefits 🙂

    1. Pushing up daisies made me laugh. And in terms of being on display, there are these poor souls. I studied abroad there and went to this museum. Creepy.

      1. Lyn says:

        One of my offspring brought back photos of these mummies as the highlight of their time in that area. We share a morbid sense of scientific curiosity. 🙂

      2. That is my favorite town in Mexico, bar none.

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