A cost-effective and water-saving way to reduce waste and grow beautiful plants.
Born out of the study and practice of something called permaculture, the composting toilet was designed to work in harmony with nature. But before we dive into the sustainable aspects of a composting toilet, let’s quickly break down what exactly permaculture is and why it’s so important.
What is permaculture?
Permaculture is a design approach that takes inspiration from thriving natural ecosystems. Key principles you may be familiar with are recycling programs, sustainable agriculture practices, or minimizing reliance on harmful chemicals (to name a few).
To keep our world flourishing we must work together so that future generations can also enjoy everything it offers. Permaculture has truly become a multifaceted response to a multifaceted problem, tying together resources, land, climate, soil, water, flora, fauna, structures and community development.
In permaculture, decisions are made for the benefit of all, not just for the benefit of business, because the truth is, we are a part of our nature. If we want to continue to thrive, we must work with nature. That’s what permaculture aims to accomplish.
The core principles in permaculture are:
- Observe and interact: Take time to engage with nature to design solutions that suit a particular situation.
- Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature’s abundance: reduce consumption and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Integrate rather than segregate: Proper designs allow relationships to develop between design elements, allowing them to work together to support each other.
- Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain, make better use of local resources, and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces system-level vulnerability to threats and fully exploits its environment.
- Produce no waste: Value and employ all available resources: waste nothing.
In permaculture, we find creative ways to reuse what would otherwise be landfill waste. For instance, animal or human waste is recycled to revitalize soils and nutrient cycles, as well as mitigate drought.
How is this all possible? This is where composting toilets come into play.
What is a composting toilet and how does it work?
A composting toilet is a waterless system that allows you to decompose human waste into compost that contains valuable nutrients essential for plant growth.
Some composting toilets have a urine diverting feature that makes it easier to fully exploit all the benefits of switching to a waterless system. And contrary to popular belief, dry toilets are odorless. That’s because in traditional flushing toilets, urine and feces mix, causing a high release of ammonia. It’s the ammonia that’s responsible for that foul odor stinking up the place.
While the idea of a composting toilet may seem complex at first, it’s quite resourceful and beneficial for your garden.
While the idea of a composting toilet may seem complex at first, it’s quite resourceful and beneficial for your garden. A composting toilet will allow you to empty both liquids and solids into separate containers and give them the opportunity to break down into compost.
The dry toilet system is designed to maintain nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be recycled for use in fertilizers. This means that human waste becomes compostable when disposed of properly–a valuable resource!
The most important thing about these types of toilets? They’re super easy! You don’t need plumbing or electricity which makes them accessible to nearly anyone, anywhere.
Why is urine such a great fertilizer?
While the idea of using urine as a fertilizer may seem strange, it’s actually an abundant source of nutrients found in all big-name fertilizers. Plus, it’s been used for thousands of years all over the world. Why? Because it’s chock full of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium many plants need to thrive.
Urine is especially beneficial for most leafy greens and herbs, as urine nitrogen promotes healthy foliage. It’s typically diluted before application at a ratio of 1:10 for plants with low nutrient needs and 1:20 for plants with higher nutrient needs. Unlike other fertilizers, the readily available elements found in urine will rapidly streamline the overall growth and harvest of your plants. (Note: it’s not recommended to use urine while you are taking medication or if you smoke.)
While undiluted urine should not be used for growth, it can be used as an efficient weed killer or animal repellent. If you need to protect your plants from rodents and various unwelcome visitors, ‘having a wee’ will actually deter them from approaching.
The use of urine in composting is a great way to make the process more efficient. Urine contains high levels of nitrogen, which helps break down carbon material faster. This in turn, leads to healthier soil, which leads to stronger plants that flourish without any added water, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides!
In fact, studies done on the subject reported “robust and large growth of bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbages”.
What about solid waste?
Solid waste contains nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen and carbon. When properly turned into compost, solid waste can become a great component for resilient plant growth. Balancing and enriching soil density, it will help plants develop healthier roots and improved growth. The waste can ultimately be used for gardening, fertilizing trees, vegetables, flowers and of course, plants.
However, correctly composting human waste requires a compost system that produces a high temperature and maintains the temperature long enough to kill bacteria and pathogens. Without this type of system, composted solid waste shouldn’t be used in the vegetable garden.
How does a composting toilet help save water?
Water – the elixir of life – is the Earth’s most valuable resource and the leading pillar of permaculture.
In the past, composting toilets were usually found in rural areas that didn’t have sufficient sewage systems and were prone to water shortages. In today’s world, where it’s never been more important to save resources, dry toilets are gaining more curiosity than ever before. Since it is completely disconnected from the water supply and wastewater infrastructure, the system requires little to NO water!
Estimations today reveal that dry toilets can save up to approximately 6000 gallons of water per person every year. According to reports , toilet flushing counts for amongst the highest percentage of water use (around 30% of the total household water use).
The simple answer
Composting toilets remain one of the easiest and most accessible solutions available today. As noted, the benefits of using a composting toilet include:
- Becoming more self-sufficient thanks to its benefits on plant and soil health.
- Tackling the issue of water scarcity,
- Reducing dependence on conventional plumbing and sewage systems,
- Decreasing overall water use
- Decreasing marine pollution
- Decreasing household maintenance costs.
The list truly goes on and on. For a leading option compost toilets, and to take advantage of all their benefits, visit Kildwick to learn more.