Seattle Funeral Homes Now Offer ‘Human Composting’

In a step towards more so-called eco-friendly funerary practices, five Seattle-area funeral homes have announced they will be offering a new and sustainable option for the final disposition of human remains: human composting, or “natural organic reduction.”

This new service will be provided through their partner, Earth Funeral.

“Human composting is a new way of returning our bodies to the earth,” stated Keith Baumgardner, Seattle Market Director. “Our client families have been asking for different options to inter their loved ones.”

The process involves placing the body in a vessel with organic materials such as wood chips, mulch, and wildflowers, which then allows it to transform over approximately 45 days.

The resulting soil can then be used for a range of applications, including gardening or land restoration.

Most families “choose to keep one to five containers of soil in a biodegradable, compostable container,” according to a press release.

Any soil not taken by the family is spread on the Olympic Peninsula, a large arm of land in western Washington.

The process takes place at a local facility, designed specifically for human composting, according to the press release.

It is meant to reflect the natural process of organic reduction, merging architecture with the celebration of life’s cyclical nature.

The funeral homes offering this service are all Dignity Memorial locations, including Evergreen Washelli, Acacia Memorial Park, Greenwood, Forest Lawn, and Sunset Hills.

These homes specialize in “unique celebrations of life,” planning memorials that can actively include the family in the process.

Notably, the timing of the service is able to be held at any point before, during, and after the composting process.

Opponents of human composting include representatives of the Catholic Church.

Former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago Daniel Welter has argued that “[t]urning the mortal remains of a human person into compost for the purpose of fertilization, as one would with vegetable trimmings or eggshells, degrades the human person and dishonors the life that was lived by that person.”

Welter went on to say that the church opposes “any tendency to minimize the dignity of a human being, even after death.”

Voices in the death care industry also oppose the process, Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association representative LeNette Van Haverbeke said that many in the field “oppose human composting as lacking the traditional dignity afforded to the dead.”