My brother, Alex, has decided that he wants to defecate in a bucket – a composting toilet. For the health and well-being of the world.
‘We literally shit in drinking water,’ he says.
As I’m sitting on his couch, Alex is on his laptop, looking at a selection of lids to go with this future loo of his.
My brother’s life goal is to minimise his use of the Earth’s limited resources as much as possible and to live as sustainably and ethically as he can. This year, his dream became somewhat a reality: he bought a farm with his girlfriend and two of their friends in South Gippsland, away from the threat of property development and the prying eyes of real estate agents. Within a few short months, they have become proud parents of four escape-artist pigs, eight sheep, including two tiny and whiny lambs that need bottle-feeding every four hours, and a German Shepherd puppy who wants to chew on everything. Their home is cramped but cosy and warm, with a small wood-burning fireplace in the middle of their living room. This lifestyle is stressful at times but there’s more than enough space for everyone on their over-a-hundred acres.
‘The plain pine lid is nice, but I don’t know,’ he says, pointing at the laptop. ‘I kind of like the hippie vibes of this colourful one.’
I look over to where his finger touches his screen. The lid’s chunky lines and bold colours are confronting. I tell him he’s not a hippie and that Amy won’t want to sit on something so hideous.
After a debate, he agrees: he’ll buy a waterless toilet with a plain, pine lid. Poop’ll go in, food’ll come out.
Not exactly like that, but I like the idea of it.
With a composting toilet, waste goes into a big vat. The vat is filled, sealed, then left to stew for a while. The waste then becomes a natural product with which one can fertilise the garden. The Circle of Life.
People are quick to scowl at this thought and say that’s disgusting without thinking of how their own water usage contributes to water scarcity. We flush away 30% of our drinking water, yet no one seems to turn their nose up to that idea. It’s estimated that in 2025, 1.8 billion of us will live in areas of limited water and have little to no access to the very thing that keeps us alive.
Buying a waterless outhouse is the most noble toilet choice one can make in the face of imminent droughts. It allows people like Alex to take another step towards total self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability.
But his footprints alone aren’t going to make an environmental impact. In fact, almost nothing good he does will contribute in any way to the imminent environmental crisis if he acts by himself. People leaving the tap on while brushing their teeth will neutralise his hard work in seconds.
I can’t help but think of air farming. How fresh air is bagged and sold to people who live in polluted cities. I parallel this to our consumption of bottled water and think of a future where this is the only access to fresh water we have. Have a sip of what real H2O tastes like! the ads will say. And we’ll be forced anyway, through sheer necessity and lack of a suitable liquid, to defecate elsewhere.
Saving water isn’t hard. There are websites out there that show us the reality of how much water use and how to cut back.