Today is one of our favorite days of the year! You might think, given our focus on growing (and eating) good food, that this exciting day is Thanksgiving. But no, that’s not it. The day I am talking about is World Toilet Day.

As edible gardeners, especially in the slow season, we get a chance to think beyond the immediate benefits of our own gardens. When we do, the issues that come up get really big, really fast, and it’s easy to veer into uncomfy territory. Following those trains of thoughts around and around (and around) can get scary, which makes it feel especially comforting to go back out to the garden, reminding ourselves about the ways in which growing our own food contributes to better communities and a better world.

Right before that trip back out to the garden, we here in Independence Gardens-land often find ourselves making the connection between the input side of gardening and the output. This is a two-fer: 1. you input amendments to your soil, and you output food to your table; 2. you input food to your body, and you output…amendments for your soil?

Oh, it would be fantastic indeed to complete the nutrient cycle in our gardens this tidily. But our doo, without proper processing, poses a rather large risk to other humans; therefore, for most of us in present-day Portland and environs, digging humanure into our gardens is not a good idea. (See the sidebar if you’re interested in pursuing the intricacies of that topic.)

In fact, the presently acceptable method of doo disposal is an astonishing flushable porcelain device that takes all those nutrients and delivers them to a distant location (which turns out to be not all that distant–if you’ve never taken a tour of your local wastewater processing facility, it is highly recommended!). In any case, hygiene and culture make the cycle of nutrient return to our gardens not so simple.

What is fairly simple, though, is use of animal manure. It is presently unacceptable to dispose of humanure via the garden…but perfectly acceptable to incorporate certain properly processed animal manures into our gardens. Unless you raise the chickens (/goats/cows/etc.), this does not make a closed loop on the scale of your own garden; however, it doesclose loops on a larger scale by accomplishing the twin goals of returning nutrients and organic matter to the soil and diverting a waste stream to serve a useful function. Yay!

So, on World Toilet Day, we remind ourselves that the potable-water-flushing toilet is not a sane solution to our own Western waste management problems, but/and toilets (ideally self-contained composting or energy generating models) are an extremely necessary intervention in many, many other places in the world. On this day, we can both advocate for managing our own waste without fouling our water, and also help find ways for people who have no toilets to get them.

One way we celebrate World Toilet Day (and, to be fair, a lot of other days) is by highlighting the virtues of animal manures via our wardrobes. Wearing our very own Doo Tees helps us remember all those animals that help us bring the input-output cycle in our gardens at least a little bit closer to closed. We would be happy to connect you, dear readers, with a Doo Tee of your own! Just get in touch.