Letter of Intent
Project Size: 
Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: 
$33,000
Letter of Intent: 

The UW Student Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) would greatly benefit from the addition of a composting toilet system. The closest facilities are located in Merrill Hall, which is not convenient to access from the farm, especially on the weekends when the building is locked. The farm hosts approximately 45 service learners in the fall and spring seasons, as well as a large number of volunteers who come throughout the year. The UW Farm also has many regular events such as academic tours for classes, and social gatherings. Needless to say, the Farm site at CUH receives a high amount of foot traffic. In addition, a children’s garden is being developed on the site and field trips will be greatly hampered without facilities in close proximity to the farm. Installing a composting toilet system would be very practical to meet the UW Farm’s needs.

            Toilet flushing is a water intensive practice, regardless of whether they are high efficiency models or not.  A composting system does not rely on any water inputs and instead only requires the occasional addition of a renewable resource such as sawdust to absorb moisture. Having a composting toilet is a significant step in helping the farm create a closed loop system by increasing the amount of nutrient cycling done on site. We currently work to compost all the healthy plant material grown on the farm- the next step in nutrient cycling is composting all the waste created by those who do the growing. After proper treatment, the nutrient rich, but harmless, material created can be used to fertilize trees and/or ornamental species on the property.

              Installing a composting toilet lends itself to student involvement at the farm in many different avenues. First, there will be involvement with the planning and help with installation. A workshop would be an ideal way to get a lot of students involved at this stage. Secondly, more research needs to be done on the uses of human compost and the best location for the toilet at CUH.  This is a significant undertaking that will require continued student involvement after the installation to do such tasks as making sure the facility is adequately stocked, cleaned, and properly functioning. We currently have a large leadership board, which includes three compost coordinators, and we anticipate that managing care of this system will be one of their future responsibilities. In the past few years, the UW Farm has seen an increase in the number of students who choose to do research and/or undertake projects on the farm. Having a composting toilet would greatly increase the capacity for more students to get involved on the farm as it could attract students who had interests beyond sustainable food production. This will take a collaborative effort across disciplines, student organizations, and individuals with expertise.

            A significant area of student engagement with this project lies in the development of experiential educational opportunities. It will create chances to learn about topics such as sustainable development and nutrient cycling.  The UW Farm is an incredible arena for exploration and learning, primarily regarding sustainable food production. The addition of a composting toilet would greatly diversify and expand the discussions that could occur on the farm. As mentioned above, many classes come to the Farm to take educational tours, having a composting toilet as part of the tour would be a great way to increase awareness about water conservation and waste. The addition of a composting toilet to the site can also serve as an educational opportunity to the broader community and further UW’s commitment to sustainability.      

             The UW Arboretum is currently planning on installing a composting toilet system; they have shared the system that they are looking at installing with us and will work with us to determine how best to manage them. To support the longevity of this project, there is the farm manager and a core of three paid students interns yearly, as well as a significant group of students interested in seeing this project be carried out. After the installation of the system, upkeep is routine and does require adequate attention, but the farm is an established program with a continuous group of students and staff involved. Additionally, the Seattle Youth Garden Works who are also operational on the CUH Farm site have expressed interest in being involved with this project; as they would also be privy to use of the toilet they have expressed that they could provide support monetarily for the upkeep as well as assist with the planning, installation, and maintenance of the system.

            The UW Farm is requesting approximately $33,000 for the completion of the project. The current system that we are interested in is the M54 Trailhead model from the company Clivus Multrum. This is an advanced composting toilet system, which includes a solar powered panel to power ventilation fans, keeping the facility odorless. The structure and toilet are above ground, while the collection/processing tank sits 4 feet below ground. This amount represents a quote given by the company upon phone inquiry, it includes all shipping and installation as well and a 10% “buffer”, meaning that this is the absolute upper limit of cost. The figure above represents what it would cost to buy this unit and have it shipped pre-fabricated to Seattle; however it can also be purchased as a kit and installed on site. This would be a less expensive option upfront, but would not be desirable because assemblage is very challenging and technical. Therefore, outside consultants would likely have to be hired and thus costs would be equivalent of buying it pre-fabricated, if not more. Also it would significantly delay the date when the composting toilet could be opened for use. 

Contact Information
Primary Contact First & Last Name: 
Sarah Geurkink
E-mail: 
sgeurk@uw.edu
Full Proposal

This will display after the CSF committee has reviewed and approved your LOI, and after you have received the link to edit your application.

Executive Summary: 

Executive Summary  

The University of Washington Farm (UW Farm) proposes to purchase and install a composting toilet at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) farm site. There is increasing need for an outdoor bathroom facility at the farm, to support student famers working and volunteering at the UW Farm, as well as other groups using the space. In 2015, there were over 180 volunteers working at the farm. In addition, the farm offered tours to over 500 UW students in 2015 alone. The lack of a bathroom on the worksite negatively impacts productivity and disrupts workflow (individuals have to stop work and leave the site to use the nearest restrooms), disrupts programing on the farm, and impedes access to any bathroom on weekends (the nearest bathrooms are locked on the weekend, a time when the farm has routine volunteer hours).      

The UW Farm is hoping to attract a new cohort of visitors--school groups-- in increasing numbers to the farm.   The youth education program at the UW Farm site will face significant obstacles if there aren’t bathroom facilities in close proximity. Walking children and their chaperones and teachers to the nearest bathrooms offsite could consume a significant portion of the field trip time (as much as 30-minutes of a planned 90-minute tour), time that could be otherwise used to expose children to the concepts of sustainable agriculture and urban farming, and to inspire environmental stewardship. Given the incredible and rich educational opportunity the farm provides, it would be a shame not to be able to take full advantage of the available time.

The farm would not be the only beneficiary however. An outdoor bathroom would greatly benefit a variety of community and university groups who operate adjacent to the farm. The facility would be an indispensable resource for: community visitors to the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA) and the CUH during daylight hours; participants in the neighboring Seattle Tilth Youth Garden Works program; youth participating in other educational programs at CUH; student ecologists and volunteers doing restoration work in UBNA; and UW grounds and maintenance members who frequently do work in the area. 

In keeping with its mission to be an educational resource for people interested in learning about sustainability, the farm selected an outdoor bathroom facility that showcases green architecture, closed-loop nutrient cycling and solar energy. 

Since the farm is not connected to the sewer line, a composting toilet provides an innovative and environmentally sustainable solution.  The composting system we plan to install is the M54 Trailhead single stall model produced by Clivus Multrum. This system is certified under the National Sanitation Foundation’s Standard 41 to be in compliance with health codes.  It is a completely self-contained unit, as it internally separates liquid and solid waste, breaks down solid waste, and eliminates all harmful pathogens within the tank. The system has a solar panel mounted on the roof, which provides power to the ventilation fan, ensuring an odorless and efficient environment. 

We do not need to apply for a permit with the King County Department of Public Health because we will not need to excavate soil (as the tank will be placed at grade) and we will not be using the humanure on the production beds. We will not need a building permit from the city because it is a premade unit, does not need a concrete foundation, and it does not need to connect to any utility lines as the sole power source is a mounted solar panel. 

Installing an advanced composting toilet system at the CUH could pave the way for similar projects to be approved within the UW and in the greater Seattle area. The Fiddlehead Forest School at the Arboretum, for example, shares the farm’s plumbing and water constraints, and plans to closely monitor the project and learn from our experience.  If the UW Farm can show that a composting toilet is a viable option and worth the upfront cost, it could enable other entities to follow the farm’s example. As novel as it may seem however, Clivus Multrum’s composting toilets are a tested, known product and a safe choice.  They have been installed throughout North America in parks, at trailheads, and even at other universities. Locally, several organizations dedicated to environmental stewardship, including Islandwood on Bainbridge Island and the Piccardo P-patch in Seattle, have installed Clivus Multrum’s composting toilets. 

We are seeking funds from the Campus Sustainability Fund in the amount of of $33,000 to purchase a composting toilet and the cost of shipping. 

Total amount requested from the CSF: 
$33 000
This funding request is a: 
Grant
Budget: 
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
M54 Trailhead pre-fab unit$28,9701$28,970
Shipping v$4,0301$4,030
Project Completion Total: 
$33 328
Sustainability Impact: 
Energy Use
Waste
Water
Sustainability Challenge: 

Environmental Impact  

Highlights

. Requires no water to operate

. Will not adversely impact wetlands and wildlife

. Requires little energy inputs to maintain and has great longevity

. Operates with solar power

Composting toilets are a sustainable solution for decreasing high volume water usage from toilets. According to the EPA’s WaterSense program, toilets are the largest consumer of indoor water usage.[1] In addition, treating wastewater is an energy intensive process, and waterways are still polluted from ‘clean’ wastewater. In a public building such as Merrill Hall (at CUH), large numbers of people are using the restrooms daily and flushing after each use.  New standard toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, while water sense toilets use on average 1.28 gallons.1 The composting toilet that we propose to install requires no water and little energy to operate.       

This system poses no threat to the nearby wetlands and its inhabitants. The UW Farm and staff members of the UW Botanic Gardens are working in collaboration with a number of individuals across departments such as Jim Morin, a Civil Engineer from Campus Engineering, and Erin McKewon and Doug Gallucchi, from the UW Environmental Health and Safety Department.  These collaborations ensure that the composting toilet system is placed in a location that is an appropriate distance from the adjacent wetlands and natural area. It will not be located in an area designated as a wetland and it will have greater than the required 200-foot setback from the shoreline.

To analyze the environmental impact of the composting toilet, usage throughout the year will be kept by use of a counter device placed in the facility. From that information, we can calculate the gallons of water saved each year. Beyond the tangible, this project would also further the CSF mission to “Create a sustainable campus and foster an environmentally conscious university culture.” Having a composting toilet on campus is an opportunity to encourage the community to think about their individual and collective water consumption and pollution caused through the normal action of flushing the toilet. Efforts like this composting toilet are an important first step in starting a dialogue among students about sustainable consumption and lifestyles.

The UW Farm has one paid staff member, the Farm Manager, and a team of student staff, as well as a student composting team, who will be responsible for maintaining the unit’s cleanliness and ensuring that it is fully stocked. The farm will also purchase and add the bulking agent (pine saw) once a month to the tank. The UW Farm staff is committed to following through on this project and ensuring that the composting toilet is well maintained. Dependent upon usage amount, the system usually needs to be emptied from every year to every several years. Clivus Multrum will provide this service. This system is designed based upon standard federal guidelines for restroom structures, ensuring the unit will last about 20 years. The poly compost tank is the longest lasting piece of this unit and can be salvaged and properly recycled by a city recycling facility. The rest of the unit can be disassembled and recycled and disposed of.  

 

Explain how the impacts will be measured: 

Environmental Impact  

Highlights

. Requires no water to operate

. Will not adversely impact wetlands and wildlife

. Requires little energy inputs to maintain and has great longevity

. Operates with solar power

Composting toilets are a sustainable solution for decreasing high volume water usage from toilets. According to the EPA’s WaterSense program, toilets are the largest consumer of indoor water usage.[1] In addition, treating wastewater is an energy intensive process, and waterways are still polluted from ‘clean’ wastewater. In a public building such as Merrill Hall (at CUH), large numbers of people are using the restrooms daily and flushing after each use.  New standard toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, while water sense toilets use on average 1.28 gallons.1 The composting toilet that we propose to install requires no water and little energy to operate.       

This system poses no threat to the nearby wetlands and its inhabitants. The UW Farm and staff members of the UW Botanic Gardens are working in collaboration with a number of individuals across departments such as Jim Morin, a Civil Engineer from Campus Engineering, and Erin McKewon and Doug Gallucchi, from the UW Environmental Health and Safety Department.  These collaborations ensure that the composting toilet system is placed in a location that is an appropriate distance from the adjacent wetlands and natural area. It will not be located in an area designated as a wetland and it will have greater than the required 200-foot setback from the shoreline.

To analyze the environmental impact of the composting toilet, usage throughout the year will be kept by use of a counter device placed in the facility. From that information, we can calculate the gallons of water saved each year. Beyond the tangible, this project would also further the CSF mission to “Create a sustainable campus and foster an environmentally conscious university culture.” Having a composting toilet on campus is an opportunity to encourage the community to think about their individual and collective water consumption and pollution caused through the normal action of flushing the toilet. Efforts like this composting toilet are an important first step in starting a dialogue among students about sustainable consumption and lifestyles.

The UW Farm has one paid staff member, the Farm Manager, and a team of student staff, as well as a student composting team, who will be responsible for maintaining the unit’s cleanliness and ensuring that it is fully stocked. The farm will also purchase and add the bulking agent (pine saw) once a month to the tank. The UW Farm staff is committed to following through on this project and ensuring that the composting toilet is well maintained. Dependent upon usage amount, the system usually needs to be emptied from every year to every several years. Clivus Multrum will provide this service. This system is designed based upon standard federal guidelines for restroom structures, ensuring the unit will last about 20 years. The poly compost tank is the longest lasting piece of this unit and can be salvaged and properly recycled by a city recycling facility. The rest of the unit can be disassembled and recycled and disposed of.  

 

Education & Outreach: 

Education and Outreach  

Highlights

. Unique educational opportunity to discuss closed loop systems and water consumption

. Engage a more diverse range of students and departments with the farm and CUH/UBNA space

. Further UW as a leader in sustainability and innovation

Education

Having a composting toilet on campus will provide tremendous educational opportunities across various disciplines. A composting toilet addresses a number of the topics that are very relevant to current issues of sustainability, such as water usage and nutrient cycling. The composting unit is a way to add an important tangible real world example of a sustainable alternative to current practices. The compositing unit would enhance discussions about sustainability happening in various classes on campus (e.g. environmental, fisheries, and public health classes). Other potential departments that might incorporate a visit to the composting toilet would be civil and environmental engineers, landscape architects, and environmental health students. Thus this project would enable the farm to engage students who may not have a particularly strong interest in sustainable agriculture.  

For those students who do have a strong interest in sustainable agriculture, this will provide an incredible opportunity to learn about another form of composting. Composting is an essential component to maintaining soil fertility, something that is talked about extensively on the farm. Currently at the farm, we have both hot composting and vermi-composting; adding the composting toilet would further enhance learning about composting and soil fertility for students.

To maximize the educational value of the composting toilet, the farm will install informative signage to teach users and visitors about the importance of conserving water, waste water pollution, the need to create more closed loop systems, and information about how the composting toilet renders human waste into a usable, pathogen free form of fertilizer. This would increase awareness primarily within the UW community, but can also provide educational opportunities for visitors to the CUH.   

Because the UW Farm hosts tours for over 500 students, and has about 150 active service learning students, 20-30 committed volunteers, and a team of 12-15 leaders each year, this composting toilet will have a direct educational impact on the student population at UW, as well as individuals from outside the University. Since the composting toilet will be physically located at the CUH site, it will be used as an active learning tool for students working at and visiting the farm.

Outreach

The UW Farm has an extensive social media presence. If awarded this grant, we will immediately publicize the project, identifying the CSF as a funding source and Clivus Multrum as the manufacturer of the toilet. We will also at that time reach out to departments and students who might be interested in seeing the installation of the unit and/or visiting it after its completion. The farm also has a good relationship with the UWBG and the Whole U, both of whom we would approach to publicize our project in their newsletters and online presence.

We would also like to showcase our project and engage students in as many ways as possible. Ideas that we have for this include: partnering with (a) department(s) on campus and having a film screening and a series of discussions about water usage and water pollution, having a pizza bake/social event at the farm to celebrate the opening of the toilet, and table in red square highlighting current projects on the farm, with compost and water consumption as a main focus. 

Student Involvement: 

Student Involvement

The most direct way that this project would affect UW students is that it would enable them to work more comfortably and for longer durations at the farm and other outer lying areas at CUH. The UW Farm has countless opportunities for students to become involved and having a bathroom facility on site would enhance student’s time there as it would allow them to have a more continuous work flow and to be assured that will be provided with basic amenities during their work period. 

Additionally, students at the farm are in charge of giving tours to UW classes and to many outside visitors (in 2015, 542 students toured the farm). The composting toilet would be a highlight to talk about on such tours and would give students an opportunity to teach and discuss with their peers some of the environmental problems that this system addresses.  

Lastly, the youth education program provides tremendous opportunity for UW student involvement from building the garden, to planning curriculum, and leading the field trips. Since children are invariably fascinated with anything to do with feces, the composting toilet will provide a unique educational opportunity on the farm field trips and a lively segue to discussions of water consumption and conservation, nutrient cycling, and energy conservation.

As the UW Farm is largely student run, the entire process of planning and implementing the composting toilet will be an opportunity for student involvement. As such, this project provides students with the chance to learn about this sustainable practice from the ground up, and is a unique opportunity for hands on, interactive learning.  

Timeline: 
TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Determine LocationMarch 1-4March 4
Order unitMarch 4
Receive UnitEarly April
Begin using Early April
Year: 
Amount Awarded: 
$33,000
Potential Funding Reductions: 
This unit can also be purchased as a kit (in lieu of a pre-fabricated unit). This would significantly reduce the cost of shipping as it could be delivered by a freight truck, instead of having to rent a flatbed trailer. However, this is not desirable because the cost of hiring a contractor to build the unit outweighs the extra cost of shipping a pre-fabricated unit. Also, it would significantly delay the timeframe when the toilet could begin to be used. Finally, if we were to order the system as a disassembled kit, we would have to apply for a building permit from the city, which is an expensive and lengthy process. Additional Information- The M54 single stall unit is the smallest system available on the market while still being ADA accessible. As we plan to build more infrastructure on the site with ADA accessibility in the coming year, complying with ADA guidelines is an important feature. Additionally, this unit was chosen because the tank is capable of holding and processing a large quantity of waste, thereby reducing the frequency that it has to be emptied. This system is almost completely self- sustaining, so while there is a high upfront cost, there will be little cost over the course of its lifetime.
Project Longevity: 

As previously stated above:

Dependent upon usage amount, the system usually needs to be emptied from every year to every several years. Clivus Multrum will provide this service. This system is designed based upon standard federal guidelines for restroom structures, ensuring the unit will last about 20 years. The poly compost tank is the longest lasting piece of this unit and can be salvaged and properly recycled by a city recycling facility. The rest of the unit can be disassembled and recycled and disposed of.

Project status: 
In progress, accepting volunteers