GREEN HOUSE GASES | OUTDOOR RECREATION WASTE | EXTREME WEATHER | WATER RESILIENT COMMUNITIES AND PUBLIC HEALTH | WATER
Mixing of Urine and Feces
Humanity is not taught to consider atmospheric emission contribution when using a bathroom. We do not separate our feces and urine allowing a chemical reaction to occur releasing ammonia gas and methane gas into the atmosphere.
Climate change is a waste management and sanitation problem. Like we separate garbage and recycling, we must push the social understanding of climate impacts when mixing urine and feces.
The Sanitation Sector
Lorena Anderson from U.C. Merced explains, “the sanitation sector contributes between 2 percent and 6 percent of the Earth’s methane emissions, and between 1 percent and 3 percent of the nitrous oxide emissions… Methane alone accounts for more than 20 percent of current climate warming.”
With increasing global emissions comes extreme weather patterns. This includes intense winter storms, hurricanes, deadly heatwaves and droughts, wildfires, torrential rains and flooding.
Pit latrines are popularly used by the U.S. federal government in outdoor recreation and widely used amongst resilient communities. They are supposed to decompose the mixed fecal matter and urine resulting in low maintenance cost. In highly trafficked areas, these toilets have been seen overflowing and result in a putrid smell from the ammonia gas release. Stringer (2020) explains, “rangers were trekking to the toilets and finding repulsive conditions. At its worst, the solid matter would freeze and thaw repeatedly and rise above the seat… Because the toilets were in such a sordid state, many hikers probably refused to use them, opting instead to dig a shallow hole or cover their business with a rock.” This must change.
Many outdoor recreation facilities also implement porta-potties. Though these toilets are convenient for a quick short-term fix, there must be accountability for the toxic-chemicals in the porta-potties. When getting rid of the sewage treatment, two needed resources that come to mind are clean water and electricity along with emissions it takes from the pump trucks or helicopters needed to transport the waste from the site-location to the sewage treatment facility.
There is nothing more terrifying than having to use an outhouse or a pit toilet with the uncertainty of putrid odor sneaking through your nostrils. Two of the most common toilets in the Outdoor Industry are pit toilets and porta-potties. Globally, pit toilets account for, “1% of anthropogenic CH4 emissions” (Reid et al., 2014). CH4 is the fancy way of saying Methane.
Extreme weather events such as intense heat waves cause glacial ice to melt, which results in the combination of fecal matter and runoff to enter local watersheds. This creates toxic water quality, and greatly increases health risks
A basic human right is access to a clean restroom facility. Not only does open defecation lead people to struggle mentally, but it pollutes our finite planet.
Environmental racism leads inequitable humans to practice open defecation near wetlands and water sources in rural areas. With lack of education, policy, and resources, there is no plan B for these civilians. As climate change intensifies glacier melt, rainfall and floods, all the feces left on open land will end up contaminating nearby water sources. Many of which local villagers rely on for drinking water and farm water. People cannot drink toxic water as it will lead to sickness and disease. As the demand for water treatment heightens, sanitation sector emissions will sky rocket.
With the implementation of self-composting toilets, not only will the population be happier, but they will be healthier.
World Health Organization’s research shows, “1.1 billion people (15 percent of the global population) practice open defecation. 949 million open defecators live in rural areas.”
Globally, we don’t have the bandwidth to sanitize toxic water for our growing population once our clean water source is out. The world Economic Forum explains, “nearly 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this proportion is expected to increase to 68% by 2050.” With this growing population, there is a desperate need for smarter toilets.
Rather than flushing drinkable water down the toilet, Do Good Shit is committed to diverting toilets which use no water and alleviate urine and feces from mixing. As the population grows and global warming intensities, we must do our best to lessen emissions and ensure sanitary water to humanity–an essential need.
This webpage was designed in collaboration with San Jose State University as a capstone project.
Special thanks to Nina Derksen, Brandon Alvarado, Sukhmanpreet Kaur, Cherilyn Nishimoto, and Stephanie Garcia.