The first in a multi-part series of articles on ventilation
Ventilation is one of the most complex aspects of any composting toilet system, but it shouldn’t be. Almost all urine diverting standard sized and compact composting toilets require ventilation. In some, like the Separatt, it is the sole means of removing the smell and moisture produced by processing the solid waste. Urine odor can be fairly well confined to it’s container, but pouring it out is a stinky process indeed, unless you have treated it with a holding tank solution. Treating it is common with mobile applications like boats and RVs because public restrooms are often the place they get emptied and you don’t want to chase everybody out of the bathroom and have them complaining to the management. But I digress . . . This is a series of articles on ventilation. First I will discuss boats, except for houseboats with RV type flush toilets that use a floor flange which I address in the Part 2 which is RV and travel trailers. Part 3 will be fixed applications like homesteads, cabins, tree houses, etc and Part 4 will be prepper bunkers which are a special case and Part 6 is tiny houses, also a special case.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings– And why the sea is boiling hot– And whether pigs have wings.”
The Walrus and the Carpenter – Lewis Carroll
So now we have to get a little personal. Having spent a lifetime directly involved with hands-on medicine as an Army Special Forces medic and as a municipal and then county firefighter/paramedic, and having been married three times, I thought I knew pretty much everything about female anatomy . . . well almost everything. But once I got into the toilet business, I found out some things that I didn’t know and that were surprising. Number one, as many women order my toilets as do men. It may be because, between the two of them, she is the one with the bank account. More common than you would believe. And number two, women’s anatomies are significantly different with respect to what we call “directional stability” in the boat design business. And number three, when women go to the bathroom (#2), they usually don’t go #1, then #2, nor do they go #2, then #1. They usually go #3. That proved to be a challenge that I hadn’t expected to have to overcome.
David Goodman (AKA “David the Good”) and I have been communicating off and on for several years. He used to live about 30 minutes away from me and while we had a couple of phone conversations, somehow we never managed to get together until he and his family were on their way to their new home in the tropics. I’m still not sure where he wound up exactly but from the pictures on his blog, it looks like a piece of paradise.
The C-Head toilet is available with two options regarding the processing of solid waste. The churning version and the churnless version. One has a churning mechanism to move the medium around (medium = sawdust, wood shavings, peat moss, coco coir, etc.). The churnless does not. Each has its advantages and disadvantages over the other. The difference in cost is $35 with the churnless version being cheaper, so if you are uncertain which version would work best for you, we suggest you get the churning version and modify it into a churnless version for testing. You may want to convert the systems back and forth depending on who is using the toilet. For example, if you are having guests who are not used to using a C-Head, you may want to use the churnless version during their stay for a couple of reasons. So let’s look at the differences.
Building a BoonJon garden takes time. The whole process is designed to be undertaken in affordable stages. The basics are a raised bed or two and a composting tower or two. All the rest, the security fence, the trellises, the work tables, dehydrator system and pathways can be added as you go and may take years. It did for me and this is good because it gives you time to think things out and to experiment and fail on a smaller scale using trial and error. You’ll discover why something works better here rather than there. What grows best when and how much to plant. That is how a permaculture system should grow. But today I want to jump to the topic of pathways and why I chose what I did, specifically gravel chips.
Looking to the future, some aspects of urine diverting toilet technology are clearly promising. Separating urine from the solid waste reduces the time and cost of converting human solid and liquid waste to a safe, recyclable product. The Novaquatis urine source separation project at Eawag has developed a highly efficient wastewater treatment plan. It is based on using a slight variation on the same type of plumbing infrastructure that we use today for standard wastewater treatment systems. These systems do have some drawbacks in that they can be expensive, and do require ongoing maintenance of the grid which includes lift stations (counter measures to the ironclad plumbing axiom that “poop flows downhill”) and processing plants. In addition, they require all users in the area to use a specific type of urine diverting toilet and a dedicated plumbing system. Urine diverting toilets have a good reputation based on theory because most people who understand them think they are a good idea. That is not the same thing as thinking that they actually want to own one or learn how to use one. People are slow to change habits, especially toilet habits.
I recently watched a YouTube video about a couple that decided to move to the woods and create a permaculture homestead for themselves. I know that this is the dream of many couples, especially younger people with unlimited desires and expectations but limited resources. The couple bought 30 acres because they wanted to be able to “have the resources” to operate a full blown permaculture domicile. On the face of it that seemed reasonable, even wonderful, but after having once had just two acres to maintain (during my twenties and thirties), I have a good appreciation how much work is involved managing 30 acres. I would imagine that the bulk of their land will be used to provide privacy. The video also got me thinking, so I googled the question, “Per capita, how much land is available on this earth for each human being to live on?” It drove me to this interesting discussion on Quora.com. The long and short of it is that after you deduct the water, deserts, mountain ranges and other uninhabitable or unproductive land on this earth, there remains, reasonably, less than two acres for each person, probably much less. Considering all the inhospitable land and governmental constraints against development, it is probably reasonable to say that, on average, a couple could expect to have less than a 1/2 to a 1/4 acre to share if it were possible to divide the productive land up among everybody on earth. All of this begs the question, “Would you want or need more than that?”