Elegant Excretion in the Field

toilet prototype

For Sunset Symphony in the Sunflowers, we’re hosting up to 200 people on the farm for an afternoon, drinking cocktails and eating canapes amongst the dual crop of sunflowers and sugarcane.

Behind the scenes, many of our punters are going to want to do a wee, and perhaps few might need to poo. So how do we manage this without having to resort to those awful plastic chemical portaloo thingies?

I have always wanted to muck around with human manure composting systems, ever since reading the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. Now here’s our chance. I crowdsourced some ideas on facebook – big thanks to everyone who chipped in. (Here are a few of the most exciting links: Natural Event, Majors Creek Festival, and Composting Toilet Systems.)

The above sketch by Kim Williams shows our very simple prototype (any feedback is welcome!). One of the big factors is that it’s for one day only, so heavy infrastructure and complex building materials are out. We will set up three of these toilets I think.

For the prototype, the architecture is made out of hay bales, and there’s an ordinary toilet seat on top, which leads to a hole dug in the soil underneath. It’s basically a drop dunny, with sawdust to be added by the user on top of each deposit.

Joseph Jenkins generally frowns upon non-composting drop toilet systems which just put the manure directly into the soil, as they can become sources of local pollution. According to Jenkins, it’s much better to collect the wee and poo and run it through a hot temperature composting system so all pathogens break down. However, since this is just one afternoon, and a relatively small amount of humans contributing, we figure the amount of material will be small, and thus able to be broken down in the soil.