Woodbine Ecology Center recently unveiled the first composting toilet permitted by the Tri-County Health Department (Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas, Colorado) in over 15 years. This waterless toilet, a Clivus Multrum M54, includes solar-powered ventilation and lighting and is housed in a wheelchair-accessible, double-stall building at the side of the playing field, near the old horse corral.
The Tri-County Health Department has been supportive of the installation process. Several representatives from the Environmental Health division even attended the recent Composting Toilet training at Woodbine.
“During our planning and upgrades, it became clear that composting toilets are one of the most tangible applications of Woodbine’s values - how we live together on this land and become more conscious of our use and impact,” explained Woodbine Ecology Center Sustainability Coordinator Pavlos Stavropoulos. “We are caretakers of this land. We want to safeguard its health and leave the smallest footprint we can; yet, we also want Woodbine to be accessible to the larger community.”
With that in mind, Woodbine is planning to install two more single-stall M54s within the next year: a wheelchair-accessible unit next to the A-frame and a single-stall unit near the meadow. Together, the three composting toilets will provide facilities in more remote locations that cannot be easily connected to Woodbine’s existing septic system and will relieve pressure on the septic load.
Besides being practical, the composting toilets are part of broader water-conservation efforts being undertaken at the ecology center. Woodbine staff also see the toilets as a valuable educational tool. “Most of us have been conditioned to not think about where the water comes from when we turn on the faucet, or where things go when we flush the toilet,” Stavropoulos intimates. “The composting toilets are an opportunity to re-think how we live.”
One of the long-term commitments made at Woodbine is to re-learn how to live sustainably on the land. Part of that commitment is transforming “waste” into valuable, stable, safe organic matter that can be returned to the soil. “This process requires respect of the natural conditions at the ecology center, such as mountainous terrain and the amount of water being drawn from the aquifer,” says Stavropoulos. In addition, the process has required Woodbine to address the legal conditions governing water rights, public water systems, watersheds, and sanitation. Woodbine’s composting toilet, then, is noteworthy, not only for being the first one approved in 15 years, but also because it is transforming a core value - one of sustainability - into a practical, concrete reality.