Composting Toilets: Why We Should Give a Crap

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In Haiti, no one wants to use public restrooms because they are so repulsive. Matt Gunn, owner and founder of Eco Commode, is working to change that with composting toilets. Photo: Flickr/j_red
In Haiti, no one wants to use public restrooms because they are so repulsive. Matt Gunn, owner and founder of Eco Commode, is working to change that with composting toilets. Photo: Flickr/j_red

It’s not a sexy topic. A drain on any dinner conversation. In most cultures, it is a taboo subject if you’ve left childhood behind. Yet, we all use it, or need to use it, every day. But some 2.5 billion (one in four) people worldwide lack one, and many — especially children — suffer sometimes fatal consequences because they don’t have access to a clean one. That is, a toilet.

While most humanitarian efforts focus on the importance of clean water, the humble toilet and sanitation needs aren’t flaunted. After a turning-point trip to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, Matt Gunn, owner and founder of Eco Commode, started figuring out how to not waste our waste and improve lives here and in Haiti. His goal is to ricochet 10 percent of the business’s profits back into sanitation projects in third-world countries.

Gunn’s not alone in his efforts. Matt Damon, co-founder of water.org, is flushing out the importance of accessible sanitation for all via his “toilet strike” (announced in a spoof press conference) and bringing attention to World Toilet Day (Nov. 19), along with several other global nonprofit organizations. And just as they care, Gunn hopes we all will, too. The Eco Commode leader sat down with Earth911 for a little “potty talk” — to tell us what we need to know about portable toilets.

Next page: The epiphany