Guest post by Stephen Thomas of Watershed Management Group.
Every day, the average person flushes 10 gallons of clean drinking water down the toilet. This constitutes a waste of two precious resources: scarce water supplies and human manure, which could instead be composted to form a fertile soil amendment.
While there are various commercial composting toilet (CT) units that are legal for home use in most states, they are often too expensive for many would-be users. At the same time, excellent open source designs for affordable, easy-to-construct, site-built CT systems are available. However, local laws typically prohibit their use.
In 2012, the Tucson, Arizona-based nonprofit Watershed Management Group (WMG) set out to change this paradigm. Working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, WMG launched a “Soil Stewards” pilot program to install and monitor 24 site-built CT systems in homes and organizations throughout southern Arizona. The end goal with this program is to develop a safe and effective, do-it-yourself CT design that is legally permitted for Arizona residents.
After a year and a half of use, samples taken from these systems were tested by the University of Arizona and given the classification of Class A compost, safe for agricultural and landscape use. With this data in hand, WMG is now working to get these designs approved for legal use in Arizona.
While this effort continues, another major hurdle to widespread composting toilet acceptance remains: public opinion. The idea of pooping in a barrel or bucket still lacks a certain appeal for many people who have grown accustomed to their flush toilet lifestyles.
In order to change this perception, WMG is focusing on teaching young kids about the benefits of composting toilets through the children’s book Poo to Peaches. With colorful illustrations and a fun, rhyming style, the book explains the nutrient cycle and the basics of proper CT use for preschool and kindergarten aged children. In addition to the kids’ story, the book will include technical information for adults on the design and maintenance of barrel CT systems.
WMG has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish and publish Poo to Peaches, as well as to offer local educational programs at schools and libraries. Rewards include hard copies of the competed book, a special Q&A webinar with CT experts, and tours of the Soil Stewards CT sites in Arizona. For those that back the project at the $1,000 level, WMG will build a 2-barrel composting toilet system and make it available for pick up at the group’s Tucson headquarters.
To learn more about the Poo to Peaches project and become a backer, visit the Kickstarter page.