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.