I know what you’re thinking. A composting toilet? Really? Your face is probably in a bit of a grimace and your mind is probably saying “hmm, I’m not too sure about that one”. It is basically a stationary porta-potty made out of wood, so I understand that reaction to it, but I’m going to show you a different face of composting toilets.
I used four different composting toilets on this trip and every time I used one I had the same feelings. One was a sense of peace and refreshing silence. The other was a feeling of contribution and completing a planetary cycle. Every group member I spoke to had basically the same experience. Let’s find out why!!
To start we will look at our current toilet system. We have a big white thing sitting in all of our restrooms that we visit occasionally throughout the day. You go in, do your business, flush with a ridiculously large amount of water that is obnoxiously loud and then you walk away without a second thought. I’m asking you to take a moment to think about it. In America, about 27% of our household water use goes to flushing the toilet. Not only do we waste water but then we send that wastewater to a sewage plant to be treated and released. So we actually put energy into cleaning something that could clean itself or could even provide us energy.
There are two kinds of composting toilets. One is wet and one is dry. The wet compost toilets are the ones at Rancho Mastatal that are hooked up to an anaerobic digester. This system produces methane, which is captured and used as energy in their kitchen. The kind we used the most was the dry compost system at Siempre Verde, which is this one here.
No loud flushing, no smell, and no waste! On top of that you get to look at this beautiful forest and mountains while you are there. Every time you go to the bathroom you are contributing to the compost that can then be used at the base of trees for nutrients. Talk about following the cycles of the planet!
You may be wondering what is happening in-between your contribution and the actual product that is used. That is also a fairly simple process. There is usually one side of the toilet area where a full bin is stored for about 6 months until the bacteria have broken it down. You can see what I’m talking about in this picture of the back of a composting toilet at Villas Mastatal.
After it sits for 6 months it comes out looking something like this. I picked up a handful of this by the way. Feels and smells like normal compost. At this point it is nothing like its original waste form. It is now a nutrient-rich and completely useful compost.
Sure there’s no door to close, nothing to flush, maybe some cockroaches in the bottom, and no light at night but how can you not be excited about the peacefulness and efficiency of such a system!