We recently were invited to construct a solar toilet for the widely attended Burning Man Festival in Black Rock Canyon.
Burning man is an annual festival that brings thousand of participants to the middle of the dessert in Nevada to build a large city with a focus on art, self-expression, community and self-reliance. Even with 64,000 participants, the festival has a core tenet of leaving ZERO trace, which isn’t easy to do after creating that large of a city in the middle of the desert.
Currently Burning Man uses standard port-a-potties that are serviced daily by a contracted company. We wanted to use our time at burning man to both teach participants about other forms of sanitation around the world as well as receive feedback on our solar toilets. We feel our toilets align exactly with the tenets of the burning man festival specifically self reliance and zero impact. Not to mention the location of the festival could not be better for SOLAR sanitation. Thanks to generous funding from a donor who believes in our cause, we were able to design and implement a mobile solar toilet for Camp Ideate at Burning Man 2012.
Our toilet at burning man was designed more for show and explanation than for use.
Fully functional, the storage containers held space for a handful of people to use over the course of the week. The structure was built from reflective foam making it light weight, transportable, and cool even during the heat of the day. The toilet was built frugally, utilizing many re-purposed parts and lumber. The design included a urine-diverting toilet, separating the waste stream to help keep the smell minimal and to simplify sanitizing later. We also designed the chimney to capture solar energy. By heating up the chimney, and forcing air to rise, negative pressure forces constant air flow of new air in, keeping the air fresh in the bathroom.
Heat, smells, and aesthetics of port-a-potties at an outdoor festival can be unbearable and even disgusting at times. In comparison, our solar bathroom was extremely enjoyable. Breezy, cool and with minimal smells made our toilet become more and more popular as the festival went on. The use of the toilet was relatively simple and people had little problems adapting to the urine diverting seat. Some people were confused of were to dispose the toilet paper. Next time we’ll have instructions on where to put the toilet paper and use smart monitoring system to detect when waste containers are full and need to be emptied.
The toilet was built in less than 1 day, and was extremely mobile- most of the pieces could have been made from re-used parts! Users said they enjoyed their bathroom experience and hope to see more solar toilets at future Burning Man events.
We are crossing our fingers that in the future more of Burning Man’s toilets will be ecological toilets. At the very least we may have convinced some users to install an ecological toilet of their own.
We had the privilege this past month to work with Un Techo Para Chile (Techo), the largest NGO in Chile, on their first bathroom installation project! The have implemented over 100,000 emergency and low-income housing, but never toilets. Both groups were excited to learn from each other.
We built alongside volunteers for a week to build 12 bathrooms in a rural community outside of Santiago where the people only ever had pit, if that, to do their business.
The community outside of Donihue is rather small, rural community. There is about 15 households. Families live off monthly incomes between $300 and $800. And from the first time we meet them, they were incredibly welcoming, hard working, and ready to have bathrooms.
The solution currently in use. The excreta goes directly onto the earth below te structure. Once the excreta begins to overflow the area, home owners move the structure, approxiamately once every 4 months.
The short answer: Yes, at least 99% of the time.
The fun and visual answer: Check out the pictures and videos below describing our experimental design, procedures and preliminary results.
*Technical note: Helminth are the most robust pathogens found in fecal waste and used as an indicator organism (much like E. coli is for water) to demonstrate that all harmful pathogens have been inactivated.
*Cultural note: The following pictures and videos show poop. You may be grossed out, but the reality is many toilets in the world look much worse than anything you will see below. (more…)
The Sanivation team has been making a lot of progress in the past month. We have designed and prototyped a solar concentrator that fits better into an enterprise and service model. Read more about our model here. We got the idea for the model from the many other groups that are out there doing great sanitation provision models but no good model for small scale waste treatment has emerged.
Frank Rijsberman, Director of Global Development Program Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation talks about the dearth of market-incentivized waste treatment solutions. We think solar technology has the opportunity to revolutionize the waste treatment industry.