So let's just start there. Because some of you will be surprised by the feature of our home that I'm choosing to share about today, and maybe that statistic will help you understand our choice a little bit better.
A visitor to the bathroom in our home is quick to notice unfamiliar territory: that of the composting toilet. Look carefully. See, no handle to flush?
Our unit is manufactured by Clivus Multrum, a leader in the composting toilet industry for over fifty years. Their toilets have been used in parks, commercial buildings and homes.
But what is a composting toilet?
It's exactly what it sounds like. It's a compost pile for people waste that is given the right conditions (temperature, moisture, time, etc.) to allow the material to break down fairly rapidly.
The composter tank itself is the holding tank in the basement. Two chutes (one from the first floor bathroom, one from the second) channel bathroom waste into the tank. We add wood shavings; an automatic sprayer adds the right amount of water; air is constantly pulled through with a fan. Bacteria and beneficial organisms convert the "organic material" into a much smaller volume of compost. Aerobic decomposition at its finest. It's a simple process.
(Please excuse the plywood. We're in the middle of a project.)
(Photo from the front of the tank. The black square door is the access port to the compost pile.)
There are three common questions we get about our system:
Does it smell?
Hard to imagine that it doesn't, isn't it? But it doesn't! Remember---you only get a smell of decay from anaerobic decomposition, when something is stagnant and not exposed to air. On this unit, there is a fan pulling air through the chamber 24-hours a day. That constant motion of air keeps things breaking down aerobically and there is no buildup of odor. Phew!
How often do you end up emptying the tank?
I can't truly answer that for this specific tank, because it's been a year and a half, and we're nowhere ready to empty it. When Fred and I had a smaller model composting toilet at Terra Dei, we emptied it out after a few years. Know how much compost came out? Less than two buckets.
What do you do with the compost?
Fair question. I know some people are cringing in front of their screens, thinking, "I'm never eating anything from her organic garden again!" Relax...
---First, I would never put compost of this nature on any food-related plant. It's just a mental turnoff. (However, just for sharing's sake, the Center for Biology of Natural Systems at Washington University in St. Louis carried out extensive tests on Clivus systems and end products. The bacteria found in the end product are the same that you find if you go dig a shovelful of dirt outside your house.)
---Second, we have a contract in place for a waste management company to come remove the compost from the chamber every few years. This was required by our sewage enforcement agency when they agreed to approve our application.
We realize that not everyone will be able to embrace the idea of the composting toilet. What if you happen to fall into that category, but still care about the environment and want to reduce the amount of water you flush down the toilet?
Thanks to the writers at the National Wildlife Federation, here are some tips for saving water in your home:
"You can save water wherever you live. If the owners of a typical 10-year-old home installed water-efficient toilets, dishwashers and clothes washers, they could save 18,700 gallons yearly, the U.S. Department of Energy says. Also, every month a family of four can save the following amounts by:
Fixing leaky faucets and toilets that flush themselves: 500 gallons
Running your washing machine only when it is full: up to 2,400 gallons
Keeping your shower under 5 minutes: up to 1,000 gallons
Installing low-volume toilets: about 480 gallons
Installing a low-flow showerhead: more than 2,000 gallons
Turning off water while brushing teeth: 800 gallons
Ensuring that your toilet flapper isn’t sticking when flushing: 900 gallons or more
Turning off the water while you shave: more than 400 gallons
Total saved monthly: more than 8,500 gallons"
Thanks for visiting!
Clivus Multrum Incorporated
15 Union Street
Lawrence, MA 01840
(As always, you may assume that I was not compensated in any way, shape or form for writing this post. I am thrilled with our installed system, and just wanted to pass information along. Thanks!)