Explore Green Burial and Human Composting with Bioneers

“There’s nothing more fundamental than Earth itself. We and the Earth are the same: an amalgamation of that which came before. To stand in an open grave within a nature preserve, surrounded by nature, is to stand at a doorway between worlds: the world of what is and the world of what once was. It is to remember our connection to each of these worlds and to help one another as we move in and around and between them.” – John Christian Phifer, Larkspur Conservation

As more and more people consider their impact on the planet during their lives, a nascent movement is springing up to transform and, in some cases simply return to less harmful and toxic end-of-life practices, providing the opportunity to honor both the departed and the Earth. From green burials that prioritize natural decomposition and preserve ecosystems to emerging techniques such as human composting that transform our remains into fertile soil, innovators are exploring profound ways to reduce our ecological footprint. 

Below, discover how leaders in this emerging field are reimagining an approach to death and embracing rituals that celebrate life without poisoning the air and soil.

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Embracing Green Burial: Honoring the Earth in Our Final Farewell

In an era characterized by the depletion of our planet’s resources, green burial offers a compelling alternative to conventional funeral practices. Inspired by the age-old concept of returning to the Earth, this environmentally conscious approach aims to minimize harm and embrace the regenerative cycle of life. As the executive director of Larkspur Conservation, John Christian Phifer advocates for the integration of sustainable practices in the funeral industry, blending his extensive expertise as a licensed funeral director and embalmer with a profound understanding of the emotional and spiritual aspects of death and dying.

In this article, we delve into his transformative work and explore the profound impact of his efforts to usher in a more sustainable and mindful approach to our final farewell.

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How Human Composting May Help Us Reimagine Death

Architect Katrina Spade invented human composting after learning about the “mortality composting” practices used on some farms. She has worked tirelessly to bring the process to the world, first getting a human composting bill passed in Washington state, then founding Recompose, a Public Benefit Corporation based in Seattle and the world’s first human composting company. Recompose started accepting bodies for human composting in December 2020.

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Bioneers Learning: Sacred Activism

As we face so much accelerated and multi-faceted change, we are each called to serve what we love and want to protect from the deepest parts of our being.

Join Nina Simons and Deborah Eden Tull in exploring sacred activism and relational leadership by celebrating the learning that happens through your own lived experience and discoveries on the Bioneers Learning platform.

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Suzanne Kelly: A Leader in the “Greening Death” Movement

Bioneers Senior Producer, J.P. Harpignies visited the “Natural Burial” section of a cemetery in Rhinebeck, NY, led by Suzanne Kelly, Ph.D., the cemetery’s administrator and a prominent figure in the green burial movement.

Suzanne, who is a scholar, farmer, and writer, authored the book Greening Death–Reclaiming Burial Practices and Restoring Our Tie to the Earth in 2015, exploring the philosophical and practical aspects of green burials in the United States. She played a crucial role in establishing the second municipally operated green burial ground in New York State, located in Rhinebeck.

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