+ What is the project's mission?
Our mission is to create a meaningful, equitable, and ecological alternative for the care of the deceased.
At the heart of our work is a system called recomposition, which gently transforms bodies into soil.
+ What is the problem the project is working to solve?
Each year, 2.6 million people die in the U.S, and most are buried in a cemetery or cremated, impacting land use and contributing to climate change. Wasteful, toxic, and polluting, these options undervalue the potential of our bodies and place an enormous strain on the environment.
+ When will recomposition be available to the public?
The Urban Death Project is researching the science and legality of recomposition, in order to facilitate its becoming a publicly-available choice for our bodies after death. The process is not yet available to the public, but we are working hard to lay the foundation for it to happen.
+ Can I donate my body to the pilot program?
Due to overwhelming interest, we are not currently enrolling participants in the pilot program at this time.
+ Is it safe to recompose bodies?
Recomposition is based on the principles of livestock mortality composting, a process which creates heat which in turn kills common viruses and bacteria. Research into mortality composting of livestock has found that the temperature inside the compost reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is high enough to kill off pathogens. Farmers are using mortality composting in order to safely dispose of their dead livestock, as well as to control odor and runoff. The Urban Death Project is fine tuning this process to be appropriate and meaningful for humans in an urban setting.
+ Does the process smell bad?
Research into mortality composting of livestock has shown that the microorganisms present in the wood chips and sawdust break down odorous gases into H20 (water) and CO2 (carbon dioxide). In addition, the wood chips and sawdust act as a filter, adsorbing any remaining odorous gases. In the design for the Urban Death Project, biofilters and mechanical ventilation are used to aerate the process and ensure that no trace of odor is emitted.
+ What about the bones?
Research into mortality composting shows that bones fully decompose, although they do take longer than the flesh to do so. We are currently working to determine the exact amount of time it will take to turn a whole human body into soil, including bones and teeth.
+ Will soil created by recomposition be used to grow food?
No. The soil that is made from the bodies of the deceased will be used to nourish trees, flowers, and memorial gardens.
+ Do you have an Annual Report?
We sure do! Our 2015 Annual Report and 2016 Annual Report highlight the work done in each of our focus areas and gives specifics about funds raised and how we allocated those funds. Thanks to everyone who donates to the Urban Death Project, we are transforming the future of death care.