Green Bodies

Many years ago a local woman came to a planning commission meeting with information on green burials. This was where you could bury someone and allow them to decompose naturally. At the time, this was a radical idea that never gained traction. But I loved the thought that I could fertilize trees.


Some people were grossed out by the idea, even though it was nothing new. This is how we did things before burial became a business.

Some were worried about contaminants, others about their religious beliefs.

Those same arguments circled when cremation was a ‘new’ practice. Of course cremation wasn’t truly new because cultures had also been doing that for hundreds of years. Think of those flaming Viking ships sent out to sea. What made cremation ‘new’ was that it was a new way to conduct the business of burials. A slightly cheaper way, but still a money-maker.


Washington State just legalized human composting as a burial option. I am so, so thrilled by that. Isn’t it about time?

I love the idea that soil can be returned to my family and they can plant a rose. Or that they can choose to donate the soil for forest restoration. But as much as I love the idea, it’s way too costly still.

It bothers me that it is still a death-business. It’s being billed as more affordable. Really? Look at the numbers. A traditional burial can cost up to $9,000. Cremation can cost almost as much depending on what you want, although it can be as low as $1,000 (think cardboard box and spreading ashes), which is still difficult for many to pay. Composting sounds like it will run around $5,000.


Explain to me why death is a business. Please. I get that everything these days is regulated. But why must death be so expensive that people have to budget and save or take out loans? Someone dies, the body is taken away from you, and you have to pay to get it back. And pay a lot. You have no choice. It’s almost like kidnapping and holding someone for ransom. My thought is if they want my body so badly they can keep it. The idea of my family having to bankrupt themselves just to get me back in some form is awful.


Because composting is considered new, the usual fears are circling again. Will it be safe for pathogens and disease? Will it be safe for heavy metals? What if a person has been radiated? And of course, there’s always religion and those who believe a physical body is needed for resurrection.

I get some of those reasons are why regulation is needed. Regulations will ensure a process that is consistent. But I still don’t agree with the cost.


Why hasn’t someone taken up the banner of socializing death as well as healthcare?

Though I suppose if we have to pay to be born we should also pay at the other end.

Maybe by the time I die composting will have been around long enough that costs come down. And then my husband can plant a new rose.

And wherever I am, there will be a day when I hear his voice yelling at the dog, ‘quit digging!’