The Sierra Legal Defense Fund’s Sewage Report Card for Canada says “Over one trillion liters of primary or untreated sewage is collectively dumped into our waters every year by cities evaluated in this report (of 21 Canadian cities). This volume would cover the entire 7800 kilometer length of the TransCanada Highway to a depth of nearly 20 meters – six stories high.”
With this in mind (and remembering that this statistic is only counting large cities, not smaller cities, towns and individual homes), it is not possible to think about building a so-called “green” home if that home is contributing to this huge environmental problem.
However, unlike many other environmental issues that are complicated and difficult to address, this one can be handled quite simply: We need to compost our own human excrement. The process is not difficult, and there are solutions that range from the simple and inexpensive (see The Humanure Handbook for the $20 solution) to the more expensive – but still remarkably simple and affordable – chamber-style composting toilet as installed in our Canada’s Greenest Home project.
We started the installation of our Clivus Multrum M10 composting toilet unit today, and we’ll cover that installation in more detail as it progresses. But this is not just a “flashy” green addition to the home… we consider this one of the most important features of the home. Not only does it remove this home’s black waste from the atrocious statistic above, but proper composting of human waste creates useful and nutrient-rich soil amendment. At a time when we can ill afford to pollute more fresh water and when soil depletion is a real and growing problem, the composting of human waste provides a win-win solution.
When asked at workshops and public presentations what the one biggest “green” improvement somebody can make to their home, my response is always to move to composting toilets. It’s not a popular answer. We don’t like to think about our own excrement, let alone contemplate dealing with it.
But it’s not as yucky as most people would think. Dealing with a dog’s waste with your hand in a plastic bag is much more visceral and disturbing than dealing with a well-managed composting toilet system, and millions of people have been “trained” to pick up after their dogs. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which turning our own waste into useful compost is socially acceptable and expected.