An interview with Ashoka’s Michael Zakaras

Katrina Spade wants to transform the U.S. funeral industry, making way for many more options for those facing death and for their families. She founded Recompose in 2017 to champion a dramatically new approach that reconnects death to natural cycles of life and engages people through meaningful participation. Ashoka’s Michael Zakaras caught up with Spade to learn more.

Michael Zakaras: What inspired your interest in the rituals and practices around death?  

Katrina Spade: I had a moment around age 30 when I realized I was mortal, and I became curious about what would happen to my physical body when I died. Because my family is not religious and most of my friends aren’t either, I thought, what will they do? And I discovered that there are really just two options in the U.S.: cremation and conventional burial. Both practices poison the planet -- this struck me as the wrong punctuation for lives lived in harmony with nature…


By Emma Loewe

For someone who thinks about death for a living, Katrina Spade is far from morbid. Her company, Recompose, seeks to impart life back into the death care industry by developing a process that converts human remains into fertile soil for growing.

"We're really letting nature do its own job," Spade tells mbg from her home in Seattle. "We create the environment that allows naturally occurring microbes to break a body down using high-carbon materials like wood chips, carbon, and moisture." While this process is a lot like the decay that would naturally occur in an environment like the forest floor, Recompose wants to make it possible in crowded cities and trickier terrains. "We're taking what I think is beautiful about natural burial—which is returning to the earth quite directly—and making it scalable."

The first Recompose facility—part public park, part memorial—will be arriving in Seattle over the next few years. From there, Spade hopes to give those across the country access to a natural return to the earth…

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An Interview with Katrina Spade, Founder of Recompose

Katrina has been an entrepreneur and designer since 2002. She has over 15 years of experience in project management, finance, and architecture, with a focus on human-centered, ecological solutions. While earning her Masters of Architecture, Katrina invented a system to transform the dead into soil, which is now patent-pending. In 2014, she founded the 501c3 Urban Death Project to bring attention to the problem of a toxic, dis-empowering funeral industry. In 2017, she founded Recompose, a Public Benefit Corporation. Today, she shares with us how her organization is improving the relationship people have with death and dying.

How is your organization innovating around the end-of-life experience?

Recompose is a new model of death care that facilitates a deeper connection with nature and invites a more conscious relationship with death. At its heart is a patent-pending system which gently transforms bodies into soil…


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