My husband was turned into soil after he died at world's first 'human composting' facility

WHEN we die, we're faced with two routes through which we can depart the earthly realm: Burial or cremation.

But what if there was another way, one that was better for the environment and left our loved ones with a piece of us to take home?

That's where human composting comes in – a new trend in which bodies are turned into soil over the course of several weeks.

Washington-based Recompose was the first company in the world to offer the practice when it opened its doors in December 2020.

Now an American schoolteacher has shared why her late husband chose to hand his remains to the firm following his eight-year battle with cancer.

Speaking to The Sun, Jenifer Bliss explained that larger-than-life farmer Amigo Bob Cantisano had a special connection with the planet.

"When we picked up his compost, and I touched the soil that remained of him, a profound sense of peace came over me," Jenifer, 57, said.

"It had been three months since he died, I missed him very much, and touching the soil that had been his earthly body made me feel like everything was okay."

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Pefect fit

Jenifer met her husband through his grandson, who she taught at a preschool in California. They were together for 15 years.

Bob was a pioneer in the field of organic farming, for which he'd been a staunch advocate since the 1970s.

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Near the end of his life, the pair discussed how he might like to be laid to rest and settled on composting.

It seemed the perfect fit after he'd spent years pushing compost as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical fertilisers.

"Bob was a fierce advocate for the Earth and wanted to leave the least impact when he passed," Jenifer said.

"He was passionate about what he believed in and knew he would be leading the way for other people interested in human composting."

Back to Earth

Jenifer contacted Recompose, which has a facility in Kent, Washington, where people's remains are gently converted into soil.

The process, dubbed "recomposition", is offered as an alternative to a traditional burial or cremation.

Once placed inside 10ft-long steel tubes and covered with wood chips, bodies can be decomposed and turned into a cubic yard of soil – equivalent to a few wheelbarrows' worth – in as little as four weeks.

Remains are kept at up to 55C (131F) and regularly rotated during the process to ensure that everything, bones included, is broken down.

The resulting nutritious compost is then handed back to the family to do whatever they please with.

"We've seen about half of families do want to take home all of the soil," Anna Swenson, Recompose's Outreach Manager, told The Sun.

The rest donate it to a conservation partner where it contributes to restoration efforts at the Bells Mountain forest in Washington state.

"Scientifically speaking, it is compost and can be used like any compost you'd buy at a store," Anna said.

The whole process costs $7,000 and is said to save about a metric ton of CO2 per person – equivalent to 40 propane tanks.

It's one of a number of "deathcare" options pitched as greener alternatives to carbon emissions-heavy cremations and burials.

Group effort

Following his death in December 2020, Jenifer drove a full trailer's worth of Amigo Bob's soil from Washington all the way back to their farm near Nevada City.

"Because my husband had so many fans and followers in the organic farming movement I decided to go and get the whole thing," she said.

"A lot of people got a little piece of him."

What was left was spread around a group of apple trees on the couple's property.

Human composting was legalised in Washington in 2019, while Colorado and Oregon have enacted similar legislation.

Recompose says it has now worked with more than 100 families. Other human composting companies have sprung up elsewhere.

The decision to go with an unusual funerary practice might have caused rifts in some families, but not Amigo Bob's.

The 69-year-old's four children – all from a previous marriage – thought it was the perfect sendoff.

"They knew that he was a pioneer and that he would do things that were unusual," Jenifer said. "It was the perfect choice for him."

Doing things differently came naturally to Bob, she added.

"My husband didn't care what people thought about him. He wore shorts all the time. He wore a tie-dye t-shirt. He grew dreadlocks."

Jenifer is CEO of the Felix Gillet Institute, a wildlife conservation nonprofit she set up with Bob in 2003.

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