When Going Green Made People Feel Green: The Eco Dry Toilets That Stunk.

Waterless Eco-Toilet from SEI (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/)Jubbling has had a little eco-reflux lately. That’s why stories like the one about the Daxing Ecological Community stand out. It was built in the mid-2000’s and one of the featured ideas implemented in this drought plagued community was a waterless eco-toilet designed by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

The way the eco-toilet worked was targeted weewee would go down one drain and the solid stuff would be caught, saw-dusted and flipped down another drain into a holding tank in the basement. The tank would be emptied 2 or 3 times per month and the collected poo-business could be turned into fertilizer. In theory, the waterless eco-toilet sounded like a great idea.

But the problems with the toilets were almost immediate. Residents were overwhelmed with an ammonia smell that their bathroom fans couldn’t expel fast enough. And the smell from the unsealed poo-poo holding tanks in the basement raised the stink level to a point that some refused to eat in their apartments – they ate meals on their balcony. 15% of the households also reported gynecological problems stemming from the dispersal of sawdust.

SEI sent in experts who called the builders “irresponsible” and sealed the holding tanks and made improvements to the fans. But these were temporary fixes and the residents were still not happy until flushing toilets were installed in 2009.

Rarely would I be asked or able to offer my expert opinion on any topic but I could’ve helped the Daxing Ecological Community on this one. In 1976, my family stayed at an eco mini-community in the countryside of Japan. It was designed around sustainability and one of its flagship ideas was waterless toilets that used natural gas to incinerate solids. The smell of fried dookie wafted through our cabin and it’s an odor you smell once and never forget. For us kids, crap-cooking was at first kind of neat. But by day three, the novelty had worn off and we were all anxious to get out of there.

So idea people, please don’t mess with the toilet much. There are so many other ways to reduce water use – eco’ing up the toilet should probably be last on the list. [Guardian]

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