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Lismore beats the crap out of Byron on compost toilets

Dr Leigh Davison and his wife Ellen built their home using every possible feature to minimise cost and maximise energy and water efficiency, including a composting toilet, grey water system, recycled building materials, solar panels and a micro hydro-electric generator wind turbine. As a senior lecturer in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering at Southern Cross University, Leigh has spread his passion for living sustainably to thousands of university students over his lecturing career.
Dr Leigh Davison and his wife Ellen built their home using every possible feature to minimise cost and maximise energy and water efficiency, including a composting toilet, grey water system, recycled building materials, solar panels and a micro hydro-electric generator wind turbine. As a senior lecturer in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering at Southern Cross University, Leigh has spread his passion for living sustainably to thousands of university students over his lecturing career.

DR LEIGH Davison and Garry Scott's working lives have been full of crap - and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Between them the pair's passion for treating number ones and twos as a resource instead of waste has seen them play a major role in the growth of compost toilets on the Northern Rivers - Leigh as an environmental academic and researcher at Southern Cross University and Garry as the founder of Compost Toilet Systems.

Their drive and work has played a significant role in Lismore being widely regarded as the compost toilet capital of Australia, ahead of Byron Shire.

"I don't want to poo-poo Byron but Lismore is ahead," confirmed Garry of Mullumbimby, who both installs compost toilets and is a consultant for householders building their own.

However, Garry said Byron council has been innovative by allowing dry compost toilets to be approved within the urban sewerage catchments at a considerably reduced sewage rate.

If you've never warmed the seat of a compost toilet, the biggest difference is you don't flush.

Instead, you place enough carbonaceous material like wood shavings or The Northern Star (after you've read it word-for-word, of course) down the bowl to cover the waste and provide the necessary conditions for the decomposition of the material by a wide variety of micro and macro organisms.

A compost toilet uses no water and treats the effluent on site in the toilet's chamber rather than externally at a wastewater treatment plant like conventional loos.

The waste is broken down to become a nutrient rich compost which you can use for fertiliser.

According to exponents of the cutting edge crappers, it is biologically wrong for waste to go in to water.

"The biological processes engaged in a compost toilet are those that evolved over the millenniums of time to safely return our faeces and urine back into the soil, recycling the nutrients for the uptake of plants and for the continuation of life," says Garry.

Added Leigh: "It's a really smart way to deal with human excreta."

Environmental benefits aside, many compost toilet owners swear they are more sanitary and sweeter smelling than conventional loos.

Leigh built the first approved owner-built compost toilet for $200 in 1983 at his farm at The Channon after convincing a then sceptical Lismore City Council.

Such is the 69-year-olds enthusiasm for them that he only half-jokingly advocates "compost toilet capital of Australia" be attached to the welcome to Lismore sign.

Leigh has even pioneered "toilet tourism" with bus loads of visitors tramping through his farm to inspect his dunny and other cutting-edge practices he's adopted on his organic farm.

"Australia is by and large a faeco-phobic society - fear of poo," says Leigh who retired recently after a nearly 30 year academic career."

We don't need to fear poo we need to respect it.

 

"Here in Lismore we're leading the way. We're a beacon of light to the rest of the country."

 

FAST FACTS

  1. Lismore City Council has more than 500 compost toilets ranging from accredited commercial to home built.
  2. Byron Shire, by comparison has around 46.
  3. But it's widely believed that the real number in both shires is much higher with many non-approved systems operating, many of them home built.
  4. While compost toilets are particularly popular in remote areas, there are also a growing number of town dwellers adopting the eco-friendly toilets.
  5. Instead of flushing it away, in a compost toilet excreta is collected in a small chamber directly beneath the toilet pedestal.
  6. Having not used any water, the material can then decompose with the help of micro and macro organisms eventually resulting in nutrient rich compost.

Topics:  compost environment



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