Can we compost dead bodies? If you want to get straight to the point with more unusual death questions, Caitlin Doughty’s yer woman!
In this short film, Caitlin – in her irreverent and always intelligent, informed and spirited way – Caitlin shares her knowledge and experience… in this blog about the question of whether or not it’s possible to compost dead bodies.
WARNING: If you haven’t seen Caitlin in action before – and depending on what’s going on for you when you read this – her style might be a shock. You’ll get over it. We’re definitely on the same page… she’s just a bit more LA than Glasgow.
Back to the question… can we compost dead bodies. As she explains, we’re just organic material so, yes, composting would make a lot of sense – and for me, it’s a really appealing cirlce-of-life option.
As we often warn (to help you prepare), the first question after death is ‘Cremation or burial?’ So will we ever get to the point where there’s a menu of options? See our blog to see what else is out there in development.
Cremation, burial, composting, liquefaction… that’s a menu you might not want to choose from – unless, like me, you were brought up on a farm and accept life, death and decomposition as part of nature’s incredibly clever system. If only we didn’t get in the way and unbalance the eco-system with our many constructs that support a notion that maybe, just maybe, we don’t die. And at least, for now, when we do, if we’re preserved by chemicals and sealed in a casket, then if the handsome prince ever appears, we might just still look like Sleeping Beauty.
There are lots of people involved in end of life from various points of view… lawyers, doctors and funeral directors build a career out of it. Hospices, end of life companions and many others often volunteer to help salve and support. People like me at Final Fling, Charles Cowling at the Good Funeral Guide, Josefine Speyer who founded the Natural Death Centre all want to help you be a more ‘informed consumer’ – awake to the possibilities, alert to your options and able to make choices. We hope that we are less inclined to be shocked witless by death when it appears (for 3 out of 4 of us, on a predictable trajectory).
There are other folks that Charles and I call “deathies”. At the gothic end of the spectrum, they’re usually less involved in the reality of life and death but kinda like the drama and dressing up; the tragedy, the top hatted Victorian vibe.
Caitlin Doughty, big old personality, lively mortician, blogger behind The Order of the Good Death appears somewhere between that and Final Fling. Spirited, creative, open, she’s tackling the taboo big style. And it’ll get attention – which we applaud. The government here is pussy-footing around this topic. They want everyone to take more control, be better informed and then they talk in hushed voices politely – mostly to lawyers, medics and funeral directors. Come on guys. Get a crazy vlog going if you want to reach the public.
Cailtin’s vlogs – video blogs are an entertainment. She’s bright. I image she’s heard plenty complaints about her spirited approach but there are plenty others doing the hushed mock respect if that’s what you’d rather have. The film here is just one great example of the intelligent and witty approach she takes to exploring death and options and encouraging us to face up and get to grips with mortality. There are loads of them on YouTube. Check out Cailtin’s short series of videos.
And sorry – back to the original question… can we compost dead bodies. Katrina Spade is an associate of The Order and founder and director of the Urban Death Project – that features in the film above. She’s working on a new system for the disposal of our dead in cities. The project utilises the science of composting to safely and gently turn bodies into soil-building material, which is then used by nearby parks and gardens. Katrina was recently awarded an Echoing Green Climate Fellowship for her work. She lives in Seattle.
3 thoughts on “Can we compost dead bodies?”
What about prions?
What about them Bob?
Barbara, I guess the obvious question Bob is asking is whether they persist through the composting process and whether they thereby pose a risk to human health?