By Heather Gates
Since last fall, The Natural Step Monona and the Nelson Institute have been reaching out to community groups within Monona to recruit them to take on a water conservation or water management project during 2012, the Year of Water. Participating groups are helping generate greater interest and action around improving water use and management in Monona. Two community groups recently shared updates on their efforts.
From Becky Mitchell, a leader of projects taking place at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church for the Year of Water, we learned that on Earth Day, their Green Team launched a “Roll out the Barrel” rain barrel event. Prior to the event, they received a positive response to a survey of their congregation about purchasing rain barrels. Then they found a resource for recycled 55-gallon, food-grade barrels: a missionary who uses them as shipping containers and was willing to sell them some.
A member designed a spigot and diverter kit for the barrels. After being assembled, the barrels lined the hallways at St. Stephen’s. They drew enough attention that the Green Team did a second round of barrel collection, diverter kit manufacture, and assembly.
The Green Team provided thirty inexpensive rain barrels to church members, more than twice their expectations for sales.
The Natural Step Monona’s conservative calculations of average rainfall in the region show that a single rain barrel can collect 2,409 gallons per season (April through October). That means these thirty barrels can save 72,270 gallons of water in one year, thanks to St. Stephens!
Students at MG21, Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School for the 21st Century, have been studying sustainability, and specifically the issues related to food and water quality. They are working with the school district to do projects around water.
On the east side of the building that houses their school and the district’s offices on the corner of Nichols and Monona Drive, the students have started creating a rain garden. Rebecca Fox-Blair said, “The rain comes out here and it runs down in a general flood into the street.” The rain garden will capture all of that and will put the water back into our aquifer. Plants will include lavender, butterfly weed, and lobelia.
Students put in a three-bin compost system out in the food garden, and indoors, two students put together a composting program with educational materials to get it started.
On the Water Conservation Challenge front:
If you’re looking for a way to save lots of water, consider a composting toilet, an energy-efficient, eco-friendly, and odor-free way to conserve. Sun-Mar, a Water Conservation Challenge sponsor, makes a composting toilet that can save homeowners up to 27 percent on water costs without the worry of odor.
“People often assume that getting rid of odor is a challenge with composting toilets, but our patented technology delivers a unique green solution that eliminates odors while speeding up the composting process,” said Fraser Sneddon, Manager of Sun-Mar Corp., a global leader in composting toilet technology.
Ideal for rural homes, cottages, cabins, boats, RVs, warehouses, barns, pool cabanas, and places not possible or cost-effective to install a conventional toilet, the Sun-Mar toilet requires no plumbing, water or septic system, or municipal sewage connection. Installation is easy, maintenance is inexpensive, and there’s no flushing or pumping out waste.
A composting toilet evaporates urine and composts solid waste, so there’s no output or contamination of ground water.
Certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) for residential and cottage use, Sun-Mar toilets have a unique three chamber system, including a patented drum technology – a Bio-drum™ – that speeds up decomposition of solids (including toilet paper), an automatic evaporating chamber for urine, and a finishing drawer to remove the resulting sanitized compost.
The purchase of a toilet is not to be taken lightly, adds Sneddon. Consider these facts:
• The average person spends three years of his or her life on the toilet.
• On average, Americans visit the toilet 2,500 times a year.
• The toilet is the home appliance that uses the most amount of water.
• Depending on the water capacity of the toilet, a person consumes between 2,000 and 7,000 gallons of water each year by flushing.
• Only nine percent of households worldwide have toilets, while twenty percent have television sets.
Sun-Mar’s composting toilets range in price from $1,595 to $2,195. Local company 4Pillars4Health is a distributor, and most national hardware retailers, such as Sears, True Value, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s, also sell them. Offered in both electric (containing a built-in fan and evaporation heater) and non-electric units, the toilets are available in white or beige.