OAEC supports diverse communities to design their own regenerative systems at the regional and local scale.
Our cookbook is a collection of inventive recipes inspired by seasonal eating from our biodiverse Mother Garden, orchards and Wildlands Preserve.
Experience the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center through a video tour and beautiful photographs of our Guest Houses, Meeting Room, Bathhouse, Kitchen & Dining Room, Mother Garden and more.
New in 2017: Now open every weekend April-October, Saturdays & Sundays from 10am-5pm! Our nursery specializes in open-pollinated perennials including edible landscaping plants, rare and endangered food crops, drought tolerant ornamentals and habitat plants. Join us for our three special Plant Sale Events focused on annual plants for starting your seasonal vegetable gardens.
OAEC offers the longest consistently running two-week Permaculture Design Certification course in the West. Immerse yourself in information, ideas and inspiration on how to design sustainable, regenerative systems in balance with your home ecosystem.
Our School Garden Teacher Training supports schools to integrate the school garden into multiple subject areas using place-based, experiential learning.
CRAPPING INTO CLEAN DRINKING WATER IS A CRAPPY IDEA!
Millions of gallons of clean drinking water are polluted and flushed down the toilet everyday, yet waterless composting toilets are not currently permittable in most of drought-stricken California.
After 2 years of negotiations, OAEC is excited to partner with the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department, the North Coast Water Quality Control Board, and the Sonoma County Department of Public Health – Environmental Health Division with the acquisition of an “Alternate Methods and Materials” research permit to install and trial composting toilet systems in our beautiful new guest accommodations.
And many thanks to all our donors for making OAEC’s first on-line crowdfunding campaign a huge success – we exceeded our goal and raised over $60,000 for the Compost Toilet Research Project! With permit negotiations and fundraising behind us, we’re finally ready to implement the installation and research phases of this project.
We’ve identified the barriers to widespread adoption of composting toilet technology and have a strategic plan to address them:
Barrier: Public Health Concerns Solution: Scientific Research and Testing
Any policy that will support composting toilets depends on the guaranteed protection of public health. We will be working with two local laboratories, as well as soil scientists from UC Davis and Stanford University to rigorously monitor and analyze the finished compost from our on-site composting units for pathogens, parasites, nutrient content, and other contaminants. We want to find out whether ecologically composted human “waste” is safe and beneficial to return to the soil. Finished compost that has been deemed safe will then be used to fertilize trees and native shrubs in our wild lands restoration project. That’s why we’ve nicknamed this campaign our “Toilet-trees” Project!
Barrier: Cultural Conditioning Solution: Demonstration and Education*
One of the major barriers to mainstream acceptance of composting toilets is the misconception that they are stinky or downright uncivilized. Update: composting toilets aren’t just for backwoods outhouses any more! Modern composting toilets are equipped with a urine diversion mechanism, proper ventilation, a balanced ratio of neutralizing carbon material such as sawdust, and most importantly, education and proper instructions for users – all of which help to keep the composting process moving along and foul odors down. (See How do Composting Toilets Work?) Our well-designed, upscale ecological restrooms will provide visitors with a pleasant, “normal” bathroom experience. We aim to please both Government and Grandma!
Barrier: Permitting codes Solution: Documentation and partnership with regulators to change policy.
A key aspect of this collaborative project is to work side-by-side with our local regulators at the Sonoma County Planning Resource Management Department, the Sonoma County Public Health Department Environmental Health Division, and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Regulators are eager to reduce rural and urban water use and and are looking for hard data on potential solutions. Specifically, we will be testing the viability of this technology for multi-unit and medium-scale commercial facilities, such as hotels and apartment buildings. Since the majority of our growing population lives in dense, urban settings, this is where solutions will have the greatest impact and where research is most needed. We will provide our county and regional regulators with a technical Report of Findings and will document our successes and failures at every step of the process: navigating the red-tape of government agencies, the dirty details of toilet maintenance, as well as incorporation of user feedback. We will also to create resources (downloadable PDFs) designed for regulators so that they can make informed building and permitting decisions that prioritize public safety, financial efficacy, and environmental integrity.
OAEC’s role in the re-writing of Chapter 16a of the CA Unified Plumbing code for greywater as part of the Decentralized Water Policy Council puts us in a key position to influence future solutions-based dialogue and inter-agency problem solving at the state level.
We apologize that we simply do not have the staff resources to field general inquiries about composting toilets at this time. We do not yet have the information nor the capacity to assist you in obtaining your own permit. Please, we ask that you NOT call or email our main office or program staff for more information until further notice.
We will post all resources and information for the public to this webpage, including project updates and findings, and resources for regulators – please continue to check back and sign up for our mailing list to receive updates (click the follow button at the top of this page.)