Saturday, July 4, 2009

Awesome Toilet!

So, by now my faithful readers ... both of you ... are familiar with my wish to move off grid to some degree at least and my interest in composting toilets.
I've been wondering about how to harvest methane off of poo (mine and the critters') and if it's doable in this climate and etc. And what about composting toilets as a solution to issues like Plummer has? Here there is a sewer moratorium. No new toilets hooked up because we're about 100 gallons per person (kids included) over capacity on the current sewer. A new sewer is going in and there are a few low-flow shower heads around town. But, not much in the way of real sustainable change in handling poo and poo by-products in this area. And what about the "developing" world where the demand for western style toilets, which flush away massive amounts of drinking water, is rising as the availability of water is falling? Flush toilets may have solved a major sanitation problem in their day. But 6 billion of us cannot flush 6 times a day with even a low-flow 1.5g or 1g flush. You need pipes, treatment plants, incoming water, out going water. And the aftermath of everything we flush, from poop to the estrogen in so many women's pee from being on birth control pills (this is feminizing fish near the outlesure I'd be able to cook over direct poo gas from my own poo, but I could definitely run the hot water heater. The gas and flame don't touch the water. It seems less icky. Of course, I was planning on solar hot water but for the winter and cloudy days the rest of the year, this is probably a good option to have.

She also proposes a system where the poo is packaged in a cassette sort of thing and taken to a larger community digester which produces and harvests the methane and redistributes it through lines. This would be handy in urban areas and help depersonalize the poo gas. You'd be cooking over generalized methane, not the stink off your own poop.

She's got lots going for her ideas environmentally. She wants to keep this open source (free to you and me) designwise and to have the toilets locally produced with local materials. That keeps waste and shipping to a minimum. By keeping it open source it's not only available to you and me, it's available to actual poor people in the third world. It looks like most of the parts can be improvised from trash that is blowing and rolling around anyway. Five gallon buckets and plastic bags are two of the main resources needed. Those are all over the place.

Future guests do not be alarmed. I do not plan to implement this system immediately as a sole option. And if I stay around Plummer, even when I'm off grid you can wait until you're in town and poo at the Wellness Center or the IT center or the store.

On that note, why do grocery stores all have bathrooms now? I don't remember that being an option when I was a kid. I like it. But I wonder when we all suddenly had to have a bathroom at the ready at all times. Was it the same time we decided that we HAD to have water with us all the time? One of my favorite George Carlin bits is his tantrum on when we all got so thirsty and we couldn't just get a drink before we left the house. Part of it must be that we are out and about most of the day now rather than at our houses. And perhaps we're all a bit more spoiled now. Oh well. It IS handy when going through a small town and you really need a wee.

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