Here comes the competition

Foundation Partners why I partnered

We’ve kept you up to date with Recompose founder Katrina Spade and her efforts to make Natural Organic Reduction (NOR) or what some call “human composting” a reality for the consumer public.  In our opinion, it was her drive and determination that proved the science and got the process to legal status in the state of Washington.

After that was done, we brought you this Funeral Director Daily article last October about two more companies planning to follow in that form of disposition in the state of Washington.  Today, we bring you this news video and print article from KFOR entitled “Gonna change the world:  Inside the first large-scale human composting facility”, dealing mainly with one of those competitors, Return Home.

The driving force behind Return Home is CEO Micah Truman, a former banking and finance executive who moved into the natural organic reduction movement only two years ago.  He envisions a much larger scale operation than what Spade has built at present for her company, Recompose.

While Recompose has ten “vessels” that gives the company the ability to process ten bodies per month, you will see that Return Home, is being built with 72 vessels so they can process 72 bodies per month.  They call the process “Terramation” and believe that their scale will be able to offer the disposition method in a more price competitive fashion.

In the linked video you can see the Washington based facility that they plan to have open sometime in April 2021.

Area funeral director Katey Houston sees Return Home as another “end option” for funeral directors.  According to the article she envisions funeral directors asking client families if they would prefer “burial, flame cremation, water cremation, or composting”.

Funeral director Houston also says she thinks the demand is there for this type of operation.  She was quoted in the article as saying, “Especially with my generation of funeral directors, we kind of have to take the reigns at this point and be willing to be transparent and open to new ideas for the families that we serve.  “We can’t continue with the old school way of thinking or we’ll become irrelevant.”

Houston goes on to mention in the article that she believes composting could garner 15-20% of the disposition market within 5 years.

Several states are considering adding Natural Organic Reduction as a legal means of final disposition.  At this time it appears that legislatures in Colorado, Oregon, and California will be considering the process.

Funeral Director Daily take:  It is interesting when you think about this process and to many it sounds like a process that we don’t believe that a lot of people would select.  However, it was only 50 years ago in 1970 when the United States cremation rate was just 5%.  Sometimes new ideas have the merits to catch on.  We don’t know if natural organic reduction will be one of those ideas, but it is certain that some people do believe in it.

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

It is interesting, but reading the linked article and writing this for Funeral Director Daily has taken me back about 40 years when I learned that successful people don’t just shrug off new ideas lightly.  It was at that time I had an idea for a new business and sent a certified letter with an explanation to one of the Forbes 400 wealthiest people in the country with the thought that the idea could “fit” into his present businesses.  Oddly enough, I received a phone call and letter back from the gentleman and the wording of that letter changed me forever. . . . it gave me a much more open mind to look at things that I might dismiss with hardly a passing glance — just what I suspect some funeral directors will do with natural organic reduction.

I can still quote what that gentleman said in the letter.  He said, “This sounds like an awfully ambitious project and one would wonder how you could ever succeed.  However, until we hear your proposal we certainly are in no position to criticize it.”  The letter then moved on to invite me down to a meeting with him.

That man was Stanley S. Hubbard who was a pioneer in rolling up television and radio stations across the United States much like Service Corporation International has done with funeral homes and cemeteries.   I distinctly remember two things from that meeting. . . 1)  Mr. Hubbard had like 500 post-it notes with numbers to return phone calls tacked on his desk and 2)  there were several cone or dished shaped antennas  in his office.  He explained to me that his new company, United States Satellite Broadcasting or USSB, was soon going to put a satellite in space and would be able to “directly” put cable channels through the air and into our houses without cable wiring being necessary.

You can go on and read the history of USSB hereIt became the forerunner of what we know as DirectTV.  Although Mr. Hubbard, turned down my business idea (although he gave me a couple of names of people he thought might be interested and could help), my business eventually – about a decade later – came to fruition and had a modestly successful history on its own before being absorbed into a very successful business and some parts of it continue on to this day.

In a twist of fate, I was serving on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents when we honored Mr. Hubbard by naming our journalism school in his family business’ honor in 2017.  He and his family remain incredible benefactors to the University of Minnesota and although Mr. Hubbard is in his 80’s at this time I try to visit with him when I get the chance at University functions.  He is an incredible, approachable, humble, and gracious human being and forever taught me the lesson to listen to what people have to offer.

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