Because death is momentous, miraculous, and mysterious

Because the cycles of nature help us grieve and heal

Because our bodies are full of life-giving potential

 We propose a new option for laying our loved ones to rest.


The Urban Death Project utilizes the process of composting

to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material,

creating a meaningful, equitable, and ecological urban

alternative to existing options for the disposal of the dead.


Cross-section of an Urban Death Project facility.

The Urban Death Project is a compost-based renewal system. At the heart of the project is a three-story core, within which bodies and high-carbon materials are placed.


Over the span of a few months, with the help of aerobic decomposition and microbial activity, the bodies decompose fully, leaving a rich compost.


The Urban Death Project is not simply a system for turning our bodies into soil-building material. It is also a space for the contemplation of our place in the natural world, and a ritual to help us say goodbye to our loved ones by connecting us with the cycles of nature.

Family, friends, and the neighboring community

are invited to come and take the soil-building material away,

to support new life.


The deceased are folded back into

the communities where they have lived

as the great potential of our bodies to

grow new life is celebrated.


Check out Digging Deeper for more information.



Katrina Spade is the founder and executive director of the Urban Death Project, a new system for gently and sustainably disposing of the dead using the process of composting. Katrina has focused her design career on creating human-centered, ecological, architectural solutions. Prior to architecture school, she studied sustainable design and building at Yestermorrow Design Build School, with a focus on regenerative communities and permaculture. While earning her Masters of Architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture to build and monitor a compost heating system, a project which helped initiate the Urban Death Project. Katrina earned a BA in Anthropology from Haverford College, and a Masters of Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is an Echoing Green Climate Fellow.






    Devon Knowles is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Seattle University School of Law, where she teaches a clinic representing incarcerated parents in child welfare proceedings. Prior to joining Seattle University, Devon worked with the Washington Appellate Project, representing indigent clients in the Washington Court of Appeals and Washington Supreme Court, and as a public defender for The Defender Association, representing individuals in criminal matters as well as in involuntary commitment proceedings and in child welfare proceedings. She has also served as a clerk for the New Jersey Supreme Court, focusing exclusively on death penalty cases.


    Devon received her undergraduate degree in philosophy from New York University, graduating magna cum laude. She received her juris doctorate from Columbia Law School, where she was named a Kent scholar and awarded the Charles Evans Hughes Human Rights fellowship. Devon was born and raised in Alaska, and has worked for environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and Oceana.


    Nora Menkin is the Managing Funeral Director for The Co-op Funeral Home of People's Memorial, the only not-for-profit cooperative funeral home in the United States. With a background in home funerals, Jewish traditions, and a passion for natural burial and modern funeral practices, Nora started as an intern with The Co-op when it opened its doors in 2007. She became a licensed funeral director in 2009 and was named Managing Funeral Director in 2013. Nora holds her B.A. from University of California, Santa Cruz in Theatre Arts.


    Kate Stephenson is the Executive Director of the Yestermorrow Design/Build School, a non-profit educational institution in Waitsfield, Vermont dedicated to providing hands-on education that integrates sustainable design and construction as a creative, interactive process. Kate came to Yestermorrow in 2002 with experience planning and facilitating workshops on sustainability education, restoring historic gardens, researching bioenergy projects in developing countries, and promoting land conservation. Kate has served as the Residential Green Building Advocate for the state of Vermont through the US Green Building Council and on the Green Jobs Council at ReSOURCE.  She was a co-founder of the Mad River Valley Localvores, a grassroots group focused on promoting and educating about local food.  Kate is a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. She holds a MS in Management from Antioch University New England and a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Science from Haverford College.


    Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician in California. She founded the Order of the Good Death in 2011 with the goal of bringing the realistic discussion of death back into popular culture. Caitlin’s webseries “Ask a Mortician” and the Order website have led to features on National Public Radio, BBC, the Huffington Post, Vice, the LA Times, The Atlantic, Forbes, and Salon.  She also co-founded the public engagement series Death Salon.


    Her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, is a New York Times Bestseller.



    Max Page is Professor of Architecture and History at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  He is the author and editor of eight books: The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940 (University of Chicago Press, 1999); The City’s End:  Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction (Yale University Press, 2008);  Building the Nation: Americans Write About Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Environment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003, co-edited with Steven Conn); Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States (Routledge, 2003, co-edited with Randall Mason); The Future of Higher Education (Routledge, 2011, with Dan Clawson); Reconsidering Jane Jacobs (Planners Press, 2011, co-edited with Tim Mennell); Campus Guide to the University of Massachusetts (Princeton Architecture Press, 2013, with Marla Miller; and Memories of Buenos Aires: Signs of State Terrorism in Argentina (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013).  He is a recipient of fellowships from the Howard Foundation, Fulbright Commission, and Guggenheim Foundation.  This past year he was a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, working on a book on the future of historic preservation.

  • Lynne Carpenter-Boggs

    Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs is an Associate Professor of Sustainable and Organic Agriculture at Washington State University. Her primary areas of research and teaching are biologically intensive and organic farming systems, and beneficial plant-soil-microbial interactions. Because science and society evolve through collaboration, she also works with a broad array of scientists and farmers to understand and improve the carbon footprint of farming, nutritional quality of crops, soil health, and many aspects of sustainability. In addition to her work in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest of the US, she has conducted research and extension in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The work of the Urban Death Project is made possible by generous support from Echoing Green, a foundation that provides seed-stage funding to innovators working to bring about positive social change.

The Urban Death Project is working with Western Carolina University's Forensic Osteology Research Station (FOReSt) to further study the composting process as a safe and effective way of caring for the deceased.




Excerpt of future documentary by Bernadine Mellis





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Donations fund the research, design, and development of this new ecologically beneficial death care option. We thank you for your support!


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You can also send a donation by check (U.S. only) to:

The Urban Death Project

PO Box 12121

Seattle, WA 98102


*The Urban Death Project is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Website by Anna Petry

© Katrina Spade 2015