Katrina Spade (orange hat) of the Urban Death Project works with student volunteers to prepare a mulch pile at the Western Carolina University Forensic Osteology Research Center.
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Katrina Spade (orange hat) of the Urban Death Project works with student volunteers to prepare a mulch pile at the Western Carolina University Forensic Osteology Research Center.

It may soon be legal to turn yourself into a pot plant when you die in Washington state

Composting dead human bodies could soon be legal in Washington state

State Senator Jamie Pedersen of Puyallup plans to introduce a bill that will make Washington the first state to allow human composting.

Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose (formerly known as the Urban Death Project), said we need more than traditional burial and cremation.

“They’re not really meaningful to a lot of people anymore,” she said, speaking with Bill Radke in a 2016 interview. “We’ve set it up this way, we’ve accepted it as a culture, but there’s no reason it has to remain.”

Spade said cremation surpassed burial in 2016 as the most popular form of disposal of remains for the first time in the U.S.

In Seattle, she said, the rate of cremation is around 90 percent.

“They are interested in something that feels like a more sustainable option, is less complicated and less expensive,” Spade said.

She came to this idea of composting humans with a question: “What could our cities provide us in terms of spaces and ritual for this huge, momentous event of death?"

Bill Radke interviews Katrina Spade on 'The Record'

This story originally aired Nov. 2, 2016. It was reaired on Jan. 7, 2018.

How it works: The human body contains a lot of nitrogen. When remains are mixed with a high carbon material, like wood chips, it creates a critical ratio for composting, Spade said.

“Essentially we're creating the right environment for the beneficial bacteria and microbes to come and do what they would do anyway in nature,” she said.

Spade said she was interested in growing a nettle, or a lime tree – something prickly or sour. Radke said he leaned toward rosemary.

In true Washington spirit, Spade said several people have told her they want to be turned into a marijuana plant.

“We truly are all part of the cycle of life and death," she said. "When you start to be able to accept that, it’s a real freeing. Death can be quite beautiful.”

The 2019 legislative session begins January 14 in Olympia.

Produced for the web by Kara McDermott.

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