Our composting toilet project is up and running! Two of our three new systems are fully installed and operational in the guest housing accommodations – the third will come on line with our new meeting facilities. In addition to guests and program participants actively using them, many of us staff and residents even walk from our homes and offices just to “make contributions!” Every use brings us closer to having the data we need to be able to work with regulators and scientists toward making composting toilets a water-saving and carbon/soil-building option for medium-scale sanitation management.
We’ve learned a lot about our new systems throughout the installation process and as we work out the initial kinks and settle into an effective maintenance routine. Last year’s facilities intern, Amelia, learned so much installing and maintaining the first system that she now works for the manufacturer!
Our Garden View Guest House system gets turned each week where the waste is paired with wood-shavings and air for composting. We are thrilled that it now has an active worm population! The first round of finished compost from this system will be ready for test sampling in late summer.
The Fern Rock Guest House Carousel system, pictured right, has taught us a lot about working with a vacuum pump to move human waste from the toilet to the composting unit, an option when topography does not allow for gravity movement. This compost will be ready for test sampling by the end of this year.
It will be another 18 months to 2 years before all our data is in on the nutrient and public health status of the finished compost. Remember that these systems are mesophilic, meaning they take months to finish, unlike thermophilic composting which can complete in a few days (see our partners SOIL Haiti project for an example of a thermophilic community composting system).
We continue to meet with regulators and are preparing for our first substantive on-site meeting with our Sonoma County officials in our new meeting facility where we will discuss next steps in the process of making composting a viable alternative for sanitation in CA.
Pictured here, Soil Scientist and Policy Project Manager, Miriam Volat, breaks down the nitty gritty of our compost toilet systems with the Spring 2018 Permaculture class. Demonstration, design education and collaborative community capacity building, remain key elements of our long term plan for the project.
And if you haven’t seen the video yet, check it out and show it to your friends. Subtitles now available in Spanish (cc). Subtítulos (cc) ya disponible en Español.