With environmental consciousness gradually permeating the human society, efforts to conserve water and greenery are gaining the much-needed momentum. Unknown to many, the curse of the water crisis is looming over villages, cities, countries and continents, posing a serious subsistence risk. No matter how much we curtail water usage in our daily lives to combat the situation, most of us still continue to ignore the truth that our day starts with inevitably wasting no less than 6-7 litres of water, with every flush of the toilet.
Irrespective of the fact that very few opt for the smaller flush button on the toilet which ensures effective cleaning with much less water wastage, hardly anyone knows that the simple bodily function of defecation can be turned into a highly productive eco-friendly investment.
Why is that needed, one might ask, given the prevailing taboo and disgust about anything remotely related to the bowel.
A single flush creates an alarming level of pollution
Let us state the big picture here. Where does this water end up every time we flush our toilets? Truth is, the contaminated water is treated with persistent chemicals in sewage treatment plants and eventually released into lakes, rivers and oceans, where it ends up threatening the aquatic lives and polluting the groundwater, surface water and freshwater. In developing countries, the scenario is even worse as often the toilet water finds its way into water bodies, completely untreated. Hence, a simple flush can amplify to an exponential level of pollution.
Yes, there is a solution – Humanure
Remember how scientist Mark Watney grew potatoes in the sterile soil of Mars in the movie The Martian, making use of his own excreta? In reality, the science fiction movie might have shown the most credible solution, as proved by Joseph Jenkins from Pennsylvania, USA, better recognised as the author of The Humanure Handbook.
Humanure, as the name suggests, is the green manure obtained from human faeces, after a proper method of composting which kills all the harmful pathogens. Humanure can be extremely nutritious for the plants and ensures zero water wastage and contamination through toilets. In fact, the idea behind compost toilets in each home, as propagated by Jenkins, insists that every house should be self-sustainable with the toilet discard being recycled into all-natural fertiliser.
Jenkins and The Humanure Handbook
The Humanure Handbook, published in July 1996, explains the A to Z of compost toilets, an idea which met with a lot of resistance at the outset. However, it did not take long for environmentalists all around the world to realise its importance. Soon, Jenkins’ book sold thousands of copies, turning him into a full-time consultant. He has travelled to many Asian, African and European countries offering guidance about compost toilets, which he and his family commercially labelled as “Loveable Loos”.
From toilet to lush gardens
A box-shaped wooden toilet where, instead of a cistern for flushing, one will find a bucket beneath. After each usage, sawdust is added as a biofilter to the excrement collected in the bucket, to initiate the decomposition process. On a regular basis (mostly once a week), the toilet material from the bucket is dumped into a compost pile and later other organic materials like household garbage (biodegradable), garden waste etc are mixed with it.
Over a considerable period of time, it turns into superior quality “Humanure”, following other steps of treatment as detailed in the book. This can then nurture lush gardens of flowers, fruits and vegetables. In fact, the chemical-free vegetables and grains farmed with Humanure can be easily turned into palatable dishes, thereby bringing the process to a full circle.
Jenkins has designed a foolproof mechanism for processing Humanure which negates all concerns about an obnoxious odour or bacterial diseases.
Humanure is not limited to its pioneer Joseph Jenkins, rather it has launched a worldwide initiative towards eco-friendly toilets, as adopted through different programmes by governments across the world, as well as individual households.