What do you want your last act to be—that is, your final gesture upon your own death?
It’s an uncomfortable question—as profound as it is practical, simultaneously spiritual, corporal, and, it turns out, environmental. With an estimated 56 million deaths occurring each year, the way those bodies are disposed of has consequences.
That’s where Seattle resident Katrina Spade comes in. A 38-year-old with a cheerful manner and an animated way of talking, she began thinking differently about death while pursuing a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She thought about the natural landscape, and how new life grows from decaying plants and animals on the forest floor. She thought about what she wanted to happen to her body after her own death. And then she learned that today, some farm animals are composted upon their deaths, including many in Washington.
Could humans be composted as well? It’s an idea with some major hurdles, to say the least. She is, nonetheless, determined. So far, she has designed a facility; created a nonprofit, the Urban Death Project; recruited experts for advisory boards; run a $90,000 Kickstarter campaign; and, significantly, been selected as a Climate Fellow by Echoing Green. In a few years, she hopes to open the first facility in Seattle, where, she said, there has been considerable interest.