Katrina Spade told her TED Talk audience about the Urban Death Project, an initiative she began once learning how modern burial practices are extremely harmful to the environment.
Spade talks about how 50% of American people opt for conventional burials, where the materials used and embalming fluids are extremely wasteful, and space is becoming increasingly limited. She jokes that "it turns out it doesn't make good business sense to sell a piece of land for eternity." She then talks about the cremation option that the other 50% of Americans opt for, a number that was once much lower. Cremation emits 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, contributing significantly to climate change.
Katrina Spade's Urban Death Project came from her drive to create a more ecological burial system. It is inspired by the same process used in Livestock Mortality Composting, where those in agriculture will use the natural elements and a few feet of wood chips to compost cows – a process that only takes nine months. The Urban Death Project hopes to open a facility that does this for people in Seattle, where the deceased bodies will be turned into soil that is then used to plant trees and flowers. She believes this to be a more ecological and beautiful method of burial, and will use it to "bring back the aspect of ritual" associated with death, as cremation rates rise and religious affiliation declines.