Sustainably Yours: Waste On A Home Scale, Part 2

It was once said to me, “There are two kinds of people on this world: those who sh*t in drinking water and those who will not”. This observation is based on a concern for freshwater scarcity around the world and the profligate use of potable water in modern sanitation. In our little corner, we may have minimal exposure to these scarcity issues, but to anyone who makes a trek for the daily allotment of a bucket of water or is nursing a sick child due to water contamination, the above statement goes beyond sarcasm. I remember a comedian once observing that a hot shower is one of two things, depending on where you are on the globe: humdrum daily routine or unfathomable luxury. Having relative realities is truly an absolute in this world!

Well, let’s discuss a great way, here in Nayarit/Jalisco, some of us can reduce our freshwater needs, especially those of us on “country” properties isolated from municipal amenities. Dry toilets.

These transformative structures are free standing outdoor units that represent Next Gen outhouses. A dry (or compost) toilet comes in several designs, but basically it contains two chambers. The toilet basin is designed to be portable, and when one chamber is full, the toilet is switched to the other side while the first’s contents’ compost away. Essential to the system is the use of sawdust, which is added along with each visit to the loo. The sawdust, available through local carpenters, ensures there is carbon for the composting process. Sufficient sawdust prevents malodors and is the catalyst for the end product, six months later: fluffy, inert compost that looks surprisingly identical to the clean sawdust you started with. Only it is condensed down to half the original amount, yielding a quick and easy removal of the dry toilet contents. At this point, dispatching of the contents is an annual chore depending on the amount of people using the dry toilet. It can be dispersed in your ornamental garden as a soil amendment and mulch.

This alchemical transformation of a waste product into a resource is one of the most satisfying aspects of sustainable living imaginable. Even corporations and special events are catching on. As a sign of the times, this past year’s Corona Fest organized a series of compost toilets for their sustainability-oriented music bash in San Pancho. In “loo” of the chemical-requiring porta-potties, the compost toilets built for the event were biodegradable up to their palapa roofs! The point man for this project was Marciano Corona (marcianocorona@gmail.com) and pictures are below.

Compost, or Dry Toilets are a simple way non-urbanites can take responsibility for a lifetime of waste. They represent another way forward, leaving beautiful gardens, and conserved water, in their wake.

Emily Majewski
Emily Majewski is Co-Founder of PHYTOSTONE, a small firm based in Nayarit dedicated to creating advanced natural materials for home and garden.