WHEN we die, we are faced with two paths through which we can leave the earthly realm: Burial or cremation.
But what if there was another way, a better way for the environment and to leave our loved ones with a piece of us to take home?
That’s when humans were born – a new trend in which corpses are turned to earth in a matter of weeks.
Washington-based Recompose was the first company in the world to offer this method when it opened in December 2020.
Now, an American teacher has shared why her late husband chose to hand over her body to the company after eight years of fighting cancer.
Speaking to The Sun, Jennifer Bliss explained that larger-than-life farmer Amigo Bob Cantisano has a special connection to the planet.
Jennifer, 57, says: “When we picked up his compost, and I touched his leftover soil, a deep sense of peace came over me.
“It’s been three months since he passed away, I miss him so much, and touching the ground that was his mortal body makes me feel all right.”
Jennifer met her husband through his nephew, whom she teaches at a preschool in California. They have been together for 15 years.
Bob is a pioneer in organic farming, of which he has been an ardent advocate since the 1970s.
Near the end of his life, the couple discussed how he might want to rest and deal with the composting business.
It seemed the perfect fit after he spent years pushing compost as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical fertilizers.
“Bob is a strong advocate for the Earth and wants to leave the least impact as he passes,” says Jennifer.
“He is passionate about what he believes in and knows he will lead the way for others interested in human composting.”
Back to Earth
Jennifer contacted Recompose, which has facilities in Kent, Washington, where people’s remains are gently turned to soil.
This process, known as “reconstruction,” is offered as an alternative to traditional burial or cremation.
After being placed inside 10ft-long steel pipes and covered with wood chips, the body can decompose and turn into a mass of earth – the equivalent of the value of a few wheelbarrows – within four weeks.
The remainder is kept at temperatures up to 55C (131F) and is rotated frequently throughout the process to ensure that everything, including the bones, is broken down.
The collected nutritious compost is then given back to the family for them to do whatever they want.
“We’ve seen about half of the families want to bring all the land home,” Anna Swenson, Recompose’s Director of Outreach, told The Sun.
The remainder donated it to a conservation partner, where it contributed to restoration efforts at the Bells Mountain Forest in Washington state.
“Scientifically, it is compost and can be used just like any other compost you buy at the store,” says Anna.
The whole process costs $7,000 and saves about 1 ton of CO2 per person – the equivalent of 40 propane tanks.
It’s one of a number of “death care” options seen as greener alternatives to carbon-intensive cremation and burials.
After his death in December 2020, Jennifer drove a trailer full of Amigo Bob’s land value from Washington back to their ranch near Nevada City.
“Because my husband has so many fans and follows the organic farming movement, I decided to go and get the whole thing,” she said.
“A lot of people got a small portion of him.”
What remains is scattered around a group of apple trees in the couple’s property.
Human composting was legalized in Washington in 2019, while Colorado and Oregon have enacted similar laws.
Recompose says it now works with more than 100 families. Other composting companies have sprung up elsewhere.
The decision to follow an unusual journey practice may have caused a rift in some families, but not Amigo Bob’s.
Her four children, 69 – all from a previous marriage – thought it was the perfect trip.
“They knew he was a pioneer and that he would do extraordinary things,” says Jennifer. “It was the perfect choice for him.”
Doing things differently comes naturally to Bob, she added.
“My husband doesn’t care what people think of him. He wears shorts all the time. He wears a T-shirt dyed with a tie. He’s come on.”
Jennifer is the CEO of Felix Gillet Institutea wildlife conservation nonprofit that she and Bob founded in 2003.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8493423/husband-turned-compost-died-recompose/ My husband was turned to earth after he died at the world’s first ‘human compost’ facility