Greener toilets, healthier lives

Energy & Sustainability
Greener toilets, healthier lives

Worldchanging covered an important conference on an often-neglected concept:

An international conference on Ecological Safety, held earlier this month in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, called attention to a dangerous sanitation issue by offering an inspiring and feasible solution.

The problem: international donors are still promoting pit latrines… but most families can’t afford to pay for safe emptying of the pits… the latrines can become dangerous as a result, often leaking and polluting puddles in nearby streets and gardens, leaking into streams or even leaching into groundwater. Contamination ruins an already-limited clean drinking water supply, and puts the local community, particularly children, at risk for bacterial disease.

A new and more sustainable sanitation system promises to change the game, if advocates can generate the resources and policy action necessary to support it. According to Sascha Gabizon, executive director of WCEF, dry or low-flush urine diverting toilets, combined with natural filtration ponds to purify grey water from sinks and showers, is a much safer sanitation system that can be implemented at a cost similar to that of the latrines.

With toilets accounting for something like 30% of U.S. residential indoor water consumption and over a billion people lacking access to clean drinking water, toilet issues start to become well worth discussing.

Here are some resources to learn a lot more about how we might help build better toilets to save the world (all 3 big, slow pdf’s):
1. Smart Sanitation Solutions: Examples of innovative, low-cost technologies for toilets, collection, transportation, treatment and use of sanitation products.

2. Sustainable Sanitation: Bulgarian project referenced in the article cited above. And, with some of the best cover art I’ve seen:


3. From the Global Dry Toilet Club of Finland (really): A Guide to Sanitation and Hygiene For Those Working In Developing Countries.

Happy (aggressive) composting!

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Luke Iseman

Luke Iseman makes stuff, some of which works. He invites you to drive a bike for a living (, stop killing your garden (, and live in an off-grid shipping container (

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