What is Human Composting?
Perhaps you’ve heard of this new term, and you’re wondering, “What is human composting?” In its simplest form, human composting is the transformation of human remains into soil. Often coined Human composting and legally termed Natural Organic reduction, Return Home calls it Terramation. In essence, Terramation accomplishes exactly what nature has done since the beginning of time. However, Terramation optimizes the process and allows the body to transform to soil in just 60 days.
Everything returns to the earth eventually. Even an embalmed body placed in a sealed casket and buried in a cement-lined hole will slowly dissolve into the earth. However, an embalmed body will take an extra hundred or so years. Terramation is a form of green burial. Essentially, it speeds up our return to earth in the simplest and most ecologically beneficial way possible.
How The Human Composting Process Works
So, what is human composting, and how exactly will the Terramation process work? There are several steps to the human composting process.
The Human Composting Process – Laying In
Return Home has developed an individual vessel-based system for Terramation. The process starts with the bathing of the loved one, they are dressed in a custom compostable garment and then laid into their vessel on a bed of straw and alfalfa. At Return Home, we encourage families to be part of the laying in process and invite them to say a physical goodbye at our facility.
We also encourage families to place organic materials with their loved one such as love letters, flowers, candy or champagne Our facilities are in Auburn, WA, and families are welcome to visit their loved one’s vessel as they are going through the Terramation process. Since we receive bodies from all over the United States, families can send the materials they want to lay in with the body if they are not there in person.
The Human Composting Process – Terramation
Once the laying in ceremony is complete, the vessel is closed and placed in our front of house area where it is available for family visits and for decoration for the next 30 days. During this first phase of Terramation the body does exactly what it was made to do, transform to earth. The microbes that are naturally occurring in the body quickly get to work and cause the temperature in the vessel to rise to upwards of 150 degrees. These temperatures destroy all pharmaceuticals and pathogens and result in beautiful clean life-giving compost.
The Human Composting Process – Screening
After 30 days phase one of the process is complete and the body has completely transformed to soil, and we now move to a screening. During the screening process we are able to remove any inorganics that may have been in the body such as artificial joints, stents and screws. These are then recycled. Whilst the body has completely transformed to soil there is some bone that remains and during the screening, we break this bone down, much like after a cremation, into very small shards that are then reincorporated into the compost. Breaking the bones down into small pieces allows the microbes to complete the transformation of them into soil.
The Human Composting Process – Resting, Breathing and Returning Home
After our screening process the compost moves into phase two which is a rest phase. Once phase two of our process is complete the beautiful compost is now ready to return home. Because the compost is alive and rich with nutrients it needs to breathe. We package the Terramated remains into beautifully adorned breathable burlap sacks that allow the family to transport home easily. Now, the Terramation process is complete. While other company’s times will vary, we can complete the Terramation process in 2 months.
We never use any chemicals during the process. With human composting, we only use, sawdust, alfalfa, water, and time.
What Families Can Do with The Compost
Washington state allows for families to use their Terramated remains anywhere that they have the property owner or rangers’ permission. This leaves it open for families to think of incredibly creative and meaningful memorials for their loved ones Terramated remains. The body of the loved one who passed transforms into new life.
Any soil that the family cannot take home can be donated at no charge to our greenbelt location that we call “The Woodland”. This beautiful 8 acres is a designated greenbelt property that can never be developed on and runs right next to a beautiful trail.
Choosing Human Composting
Terramation offers us a chance to save natural resources and nourish the land. Therefore, it avoids the ecological harms of conventional burial – which leeches harmful chemicals into the ground. And it doesn’t spew fossil fuels into the atmosphere like cremation. Human composting actively promotes healthy ecologies. And it allows the life of a loved one passed to transform into something new. We at Return Home think of this as paying the gift of life forward. Human composting is both the new and ancient way of caring for those who’ve passed.