Coming to Kalu Yala, for me, was an opportunity to break out of the expected roles of life after college. The last thing I wanted to was settle into a job that I was not enthralled by. I wanted to put myself into a totally unexpected situation, push my boundaries, and have the option to work on multiple projects. So here I am. The big question everyone is asking now is, “What are you planning for your big project?”
The best part about the answer to that question is that I have one. The second best part is that I’ve decided to get into some deep shit… literally. Marcella and I have teamed up to spear head waste management in the Valley- starting with the “composting” toilets we currently have. Our current system is so close to right that it’s almost frustrating, but making it right will most certainly be our biggest adventure.
Our current standing outhouse is made of pallet floors covered in plywood with a women’s side and a men’s side separated by another piece of plywood. Toilet seats are built over a Rubbermaid container… the process is as follows: place a handful of sawdust in the Rubbermaid, take care of business, top it with sawdust, walk to the back of the outhouse to remove the Rubbermaid, and then dump the contents of the bucket into roughly a 5′ wide x 5′ deep** poop hole (#junglelife).
First order of business is to lime and physically aerate our existing 9 month old P.O.S. (Is it safe to add vomit into the poop compost? I need to look that one up.) This process of liming the pit is to eliminate the jungle odors and help to neutralize the pile. After this we’ll have to leave the hole for a bit to decompose the top layers then we have two options- 1) plant a tree in the hole and top it off with neighboring, non-poopy soil; 2) just top off with soil, mark the hole’s location, and leave it to continue to decompose. The end product of any composting toilet, even our shit hole, is to create a closed loop system. Nothing is wasted and some of the best fertilizer is created which is particularly useful in our Valley farm were our soils can be composed of a lot of clay, very dry, or leached of nutrients due to excessive rains.
Our second feat is to build a second bano which will be the women’s restroom at the end of our rebuild. It will be modeled after the original except with all repurposed and Valley harvested materials. We’re going to start with a rancho style floor- trench the edges and then build up the floor with rocks and collected sand from the beach. The plan is to use old posts from OG Basecamp as the corner posts and then create the walls out of dried and halved bamboo stalks which Ian, Marcella, and I collected at the end of this last stint. The interior stall divider will be a Kalu Yala earth ship wall prototype! We’re using empty beer cans and clay to build these and we’ve already established a design that works well for this.
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The only fabricated materials to be used are three zinc sheets for the roof, but these are left over materials from previous Valley projects. The poop holes of these new outhouses will eliminate the Rubbermaids and will be dug under the structure (we’re still researching the appropriate size of these holes for the use of 50+ people over a 6 month period). Rain water catchments will be setup on both bathroom buildings so as to further utilize every resource available.
Once we have the new outhouse in working order Marcella and I will move on to renovating the old bathroom into a new and improved boys’ outhouse. We’ll be ripping out the pallet floors and replacing them with rancho floors as well as pulling off the old bamboo walls which are now separating and no longer very private.
The big picture of this formula for shit-cess is that we can eliminate the need for waste water treatment in the community as a whole. The most effective systems are closed loop. Everything we’ve been given by nature needs to be used correctly and then returned back to nature in the most direct way possible. In talking with Austin and Cory, the business interns based in the city, we’ve learned that the plans for the building to be erected by August includes no indoor bathrooms! Marcella and I were ecstatic to hear this because our end goals were to employ larger-scale, real bathroom-esque composting bathhouses. If we can make these dreams a reality for this summer’s event, make this first group of people believe in the right way of doing things, Kalu Yala’s reveries of being the world’s most sustainable community is in line to be absolute. That’s why I’m here. I’ve fallen in love with the big idea and will do everything that I can to move closer to seeing it through one poo pile at a time!
* Other title brainstorming ideas: Fecal Fun, Mierda Madness, Poop Possibilities, Poo Problems, Gettin’ Shit Done, Pooping Palaces, Shit Innovations, Shit-tastic!, Pooper Troopers, Feces Pieces, Poo Planners
** This estimation of poop hole size was a collaborative effort based on who we determined could potentially lie in the hole.