Viral Funeral Home Turns Your Body Into Nutrient-Rich Soil

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit
A small burlap bag of soil between two small potted plants.
instagram | @returnhomenor

When a family member passes away, the two most common options are a formal burial in a plot at a cemetery, or cremation. However, as time passes, people are finding more and more alternatives and discovering new ways to honor their loved ones.

One of these alternatives is called 'terramation', a process that allows the person's body to become rich, fertile soil so they can return to the earth.

A funeral home in Washington has made quite the splash.

Called Return Home, they take in bodies and compost them to create soil. Their Instagram page says the process "gently transforms human remains into rich soil that supports new life and promotes healthy ecosystems."

They've had a number of viral TikToks.

Turns out people are fascinated by this method called 'terramation', and how it's an "environmentally mindful end-of-life decision for their loved ones."

They're extremely open about their process and what goes into it, with the whole cycle broken down into two phases over two-three months.

They break down the process into two phases.

During phase one, the body is put in a 'vessel', a special large box, with straw, alfalfa, and sawdust. Bodies are dressed in compostable clothing, and family members are invited to visit and leave compostable items in the vessel such as flowers and paper cards. What can't be left inside gets placed on the outside of the vessel as decoration.

This phase lasts 30-60 days.

Then comes phase two.

By this point, what remains of the person in the vessel is bones. The company then breaks the bones down into much smaller pieces and puts it back into the same batch of soil to be fully broken down. This takes about another month.

At the end of the process, you wind up with usable soil!

One person and the materials in their vessel create about 400 pounds of compost, all of which their families are welcome to take home and use however they wish. They'll load the soil into large burlap bags, except for one small five-pound bag that's suitable for holding or displaying.

If the family doesn't want the entire batch of soil, Return Home scatters it in a patch of woodland they own.

Return Home is immensely proud of the work they do.

Katey Houston, Return Home's client service manager, spoke to Buzzfeed about what some people have done with the soil.

"We had one family — their dad passed away — and they took the whole amount of soil home [...] They decided they were going to plant a barrier wall of trees around their house so that their dad would protect them forever."

"There was also a lady who was picking up her daughter [...]."

"[...] she told me she will be sharing out portions to all of her friends and family, and her daughter [will] be taken all over the world."

"You can do really whatever you want with it," she explained, "It's like having cremated remains, but more of it that is actually good for the planet."

Return Home is a fairly new business, having only opened in 2021.

This is because terramation, more officially known as natural organic reduction, only became legal in the state of Washington in 2019. Oregon, Colorado, and Vermont have since followed.

They charge $4950 for the entire process, including county/state fees and death certificates.

h/t: Buzzfeed