Katrina Spade

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Katrina Spade stands in front of a mossy tree in Seattle, WA in 2017.

Katrina Mogielnicki Spade (born September 9, 1977[1]) is an American designer, entrepreneur, and death care advocate.[2] Spade is the founder of Recompose, a public-benefit corporation developing a natural alternative to conventional cremation and burial. She was awarded the Echoing Green Climate Fellowship in 2014 and the Ashoka Fellowship in 2018 for her work.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Spade grew up in rural New Hampshire and was raised by a physician and physician's assistant. [4] She told the Seattle Stranger of that time in her life, "We weren't religious, but we saw nature as somehow spiritual."[5] She earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, then turned her focus to sustainable design while attending Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont. At Yestermorrow, Spade helped to build a Pain Mound - a compost-based bioenergy system invented by Jean Pain that can produce heat for up to 18 months.[6][4] Later, while earning a Master of Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she wrote a thesis entitled "A Place for the Urban Dead", an idea for which she was awarded the Echoing Green Climate Fellowship in 2014[3] and the Ashoka Fellowship in 2018.[7]

Urban Death Project[edit]

In considering her own mortality, Spade wanted options more that were environmentally sustainable and allowed family and friends to participate in the care of their loved one.[8] She formulated early ideas about the possibility of human recomposition, but when she learned about the practice of livestock mortality composting, she began work to create the same option for humans.[5] Spade founded the Urban Death Project in 2014 with a focus on developing a new system of death care called recomposition, which transforms human bodies into soil.[9]


In 2018, the Urban Death Project dissolved and Spade founded Recompose, a public-benefit corporation. Similar to the Urban Death Project, Recompose is developing a patent pending process that converts human remains to soil.[10] It seeks to create a scalable and sustainable alternative to natural burial, particularly for urban dwellers.[10]

Natural Organic Reduction Legalized in Washington State[edit]

Spade testified during the Washington State Legislative session for SB5001, which would add natural organic reduction (sometimes referred to as human composting) as a legal choice for human disposition.[11] Democratic Senator Jamie Pederson, the bill's sponsor indicated, "“The main purpose is to provide more options to people in terms of how they can dispose of their own remains and those of their loved ones. There are people who are very troubled by the environmental consequences with the current means of disposing of remains[12].” The law takes effect in May 2020 and as the New York Times states, "will allow bodies to be placed in a receptacle, along with organic material like wood chips and straw, to help speed up the natural transition of human remains into soil. Farmers use a similar process to compost the bodies of livestock."[13] Spade intends to open her first facility in Seattle, Washington in May 2020.[13]

Advocacy and awards[edit]

  • Awarded Ashoka Fellowship, October 2018[14]
  • SVP Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch 1st Place and Audience Choice Award, 2016[15]
  • Buckminster Fuller Prize Semifinalist, 2016 - Designs That Are Changing the World[16]
  • Awarded Echoing Green Climate Fellowship, 2014[3]
  • TED Speaker: When I Die, Recompose Me[17]
  • Member of "The Order of the Good Death", an "inclusive community of funeral industry professionals, academics, as well as artists who advocate for and make possible, a more death informed society."[18]


  1. ^ "Seattle, you've got a new moniker: 'death-positive'". crosscut.com. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  2. ^ "Order Members | The Order of the Good Death". The Order of the Good Death. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  3. ^ a b c "Katrina Spade | Echoing Green". www.echoinggreen.org. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  4. ^ a b "Seattle could get an Urban Death Project human composter in just 7 years". The Seattle Times. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  5. ^ a b "The Architect Who Wants to Redesign Being Dead". The Stranger. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  6. ^ "Compost Heating System". Instructables.com. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  7. ^ "Katrina Spade". Ashoka | Everyone a Changemaker. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  8. ^ "The Urban Death Project: Bringing Death Back Into the Urban Realm". Metropolis. 2017-02-24. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  9. ^ "Inside the Machine That Will Turn Your Corpse Into Compost". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  10. ^ a b "The Last Thing We Ever Do Is Unsustainable. This Woman Wants To Change That". mindbodygreen. 2018-04-03. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  11. ^ "Senate Bill Report SB 5001" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Advocates say 'human composting' an eco-friendly alternative to burial, cremation". The Columbian.
  13. ^ a b Hassan, Adeel (May 22, 2019). "Ashes to Ashes. Dust to Dust. Or, in Washington State, You Could Now Be Compost". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Katrina Spade". Ashoka | Everyone a Changemaker. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  15. ^ "SVP Seattle Congratulations SVP Fast Pitch 2016 Winners! - SVP Seattle". www.socialventurepartners.org. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  16. ^ "8 groundbreaking Buckminster Fuller semifinalist designs that are changing the world". Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  17. ^ Spade, Katrina. "Katrina Spade | Speaker | TED". Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  18. ^ "A Cheerful Mortician Tackles The Lighter Side Of Death". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-06-13.

External links[edit]