On April 28th, 2016 founder and executive director of the Urban Death Project, Katrina Spade and Green Burial Council CEO, Joe Sehee answered all your questions LIVE on YouTube! Episode 4 of #TalkDeath was all about Eco-Burials and Human Composting and we talked about natural burials, decomposing bodies, corpse pods and the environmental impact of conventional funerals.
In case you don't know, the Urban Death Project wants to compost your body after you die and is in the process of designing their first prototype. The Green Burial Council is setting the standard for environmentally friendly natural burial grounds in North America. If anyone of these questions interests you, check out or highlight videos below!
#TalkDeath: Eco-Burials and Human Composting
1. What Are Some Unexpected Facts About Green Burial?
This first question was a good one: What is unexpected or curious about green burials and human composting that might surprise people? Joe let's us know that green burial practices have a very DIY component to them that many people are unaware of. The idea that home funerals and participatory practices were echoed by Katrina who hopes that the Urban Death Project will help facilitate. We've lost a connection to dead bodies and the unexpected fact is that that doesn't have to be the case.
2. How Do You Ensure The Preservation of Green Burial Spaces?
How can we ensure that green burial spaces will be respected in perpetuity? What is to stop a developer from buying the land and building a Walmart over the bodies of our loved ones? A good question but if you think about it says Joe, "conventional cemeteries can be foreclosed but you don't see them turning into car dealerships." Luckily the Green Burial Council has worked to create standards to ensure the preservation of natural and hybrid cemetery spaces.
3. Do People Handle Grief Differently With Green Burials?
Green burials and projects like Katrina's human composting are different than conventional funerary practices to be sure. But does that change the bereavement process in any way? "There is something to the role of nature in our grieving process" says Katrina. Katrina first became interested in this question when she realized that when many people who live in cities die, they always get brought to cemeteries in the countryside. Natural burials grounds says Joe, lets people continue to connect with the dead by connecting with nature.
4. How Can I Have a Green Burial if There Are No Options Available?
What happens if you live somewhere that doesn't offer green funerary options but that is something that you want? First you can always be buried on your own property, if local laws and acreage allow. Joe's new project is to encourage people to buy land adjacent to parks and then gift that land back so long as it can be used as a natural burial ground. If these options don't sound up your alley, don't fret. Katrina makes it clear that the community of alternative death care professionals is growing and so are your options (even within conventional funerary practices).
5. How Do We Make Our Current Death Practices More Green?
How do we make our current practices more green? Can we have greener burials and cremations? Cremation, although not as bad as some might think, argue Katrina and Joe, is nonetheless a big polluter in the funeral professional. New techniques like water cremation might offer a solution. Skipping the embalming fluid and cement vaults may be others. Hear what Joe and Katrina have to say about making our current practices better for the environment.
Full 1 Hour Interview:
Our recaps didn't cover everything so be sure to make some coffee, kick up your feet and watch our full 1 hour interview with Katrina Spade of the Urban Death Project and Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council!