Environmental Leadership Center
Warren Wilson College
Campus Box 6323
P.O. Box 9000
Asheville, NC 28815-9000
Please refer comments or questions about this website to Ellen Querin.
How It Works:
A composting toilet is a waterless toilet that converts human waste into usable compost. This process works the same as other compost and, like traditional compost, relies on a balance of nitrogen and carbon for optimal aerobic breakdown. While human waste is nitrogen rich, material such as woodchips, paper, or other carbon sources are added to achieve this balance. In order for safe compost to be created thermophillic decomposition must take place, which destroys any harmful pathogens that might be present. For further elaboration see the diagram below
Why We Do It:
An incredible benefit of the composting toilet is its ability to help us conserve water. A traditional toilet uses 5 – 7 gallons of water every time it flushes. A composting toilet uses none. One study suggests that this could save an individual up to 15,000 gallons of water per year! Conserving water has strong implications for sustainability. It is an economically efficient option, as it clearly saves us money but also because it helps offer us greater security in times of drought, such as we are experiencing now. Conserving water also has strong environmental implications, by keeping water out of water treatment plants and in the rivers where they provide habitat for native species.
Another benefit of composting toilets is efficient recycling of resources, turning human waste into usable compost.
How We Use It:
In our EcoDorm residence there are two Clivus Multrum composting toilets. Students use the toilets adding a cup of sawdust after each bathroom visit. Every month or so, the compost is collected by residents.
Expense and prohibitive regulations are two things to be aware of in looking at installation of composting toilets. State regulations do not allow for the use of compost by the institution and expenses are significant. Again, however, composting toilets offer us significant potential for reducing water consumption and there are variable options available with a range of prices.
How You Can Do It:
Begin by further researching the different types of composting toilets available to find the one that is best suited for you situation. Also, do some research on effectively managing compost. An effectively managed system can be odorless and efficient but a certain amount of knowledge and care is needed to achieve this result.