Body composting takes root in US ‘green’ burial trend

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A woodpecker settled on a branch overhead as Cindy Armstrong stood near a grouping of trees, gazing at a patch of soil that contained bits of her son’s composted remains. Armstrong is one of a growing number of Americans embracing environmentally low-impact burials for their loved ones.

Armstrong recalled that her son Andrew insisted on the so-called “terramation” process after the western state of Washington became the first in the United States to make the practice a legal alternative to cremation in 2019. “I was mortified,” she told AFP. “Now that I’ve gone through the process, I’m all for this. I will be terramated.”

The composted remains of Andrew, who died from cancer last year at age 36, have joined remains of dozens of others on a hillside in the town of Kent, in the Seattle area, set aside as their resting place.

Thousands of Americans choose “green” burial — which eschews chemical embalming as well as materials like concrete or metal which come with climate-harming carbon footprints — each year.

“He wanted to give back to nature,” Armstrong said on a recent March morning, with trees and plants taking root in the verdant, wet hillside.

The land is owned by Return Home, a startup that has performed 40 terramations since launching in the neighboring city of Auburn seven months ago. —Agencies

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