Katrina Spade, Founder and CEO of Recompose.


Craig Willse

The natural organic reduction, or human composting event, “grew out of a desire by community members to learn more about this type of option,” said David Fife, member of the board of trustees and chair of the education committee. “Learning about these alternatives opens doors to discussion that may not otherwise be there. It allows us to talk more comfortably about our mortality,” he said.

The virtual series has attracted contestants across the country and abroad. “That was great because it brings more diversity to the conversation,” said Julie Evans, executive director of the foundation.

This funeral facility is not widely known or available in Arizona, but Recompose has the ability to host deceased individuals from other states by working with funeral directors in the location where the individual died.

How it started

In the summer of 2011, Spade was playing with her young son in her backyard and she realized that one day she would be old and began to consider her options for mortality and death welfare. She cared about the environment and, according to the Recompose website, was considering a more environmentally friendly option than burial and cremation.

An architecture student studying for a master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Spade learned from a childhood friend that farmers have been composting livestock for decades, and she wondered about human composting, according to the Recompose website. She built a compost heating system with friends and continued her research in 2013. After graduating a year later, she worked day and night as an architect on the concept of human composting and received a two-year Echoing Green Fellowship which allowed her to work full-time with experts in soil science, engineering and program management for her human composting project.