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Sustainable boating includes the john

Feature | July 4, 2019 | By:

Sustainable boating takes many forms, from solar panels to using wind or water for power, eco-friendly cleaning products, low-flow showerheads and LED lights. Joe OBrien, of Schwenksville, Pa., has been outfitting his sailboat with an earth-friendly component that is about as elemental as they come—a composting toilet.

OBrien and his wife, Julie, have been renovating a Pearson 424, and, as he says, “We always had problems with the head. It always smelled, it always leaked, it took up a lot of room, and there were hoses and valves all over the place,” says OBrien. “We were looking for a simpler solution—one that wouldn’t smell or leak into the bilge.”

A friend had installed a composting toilet on his boat and was “thrilled with it,” says OBrien. He was skeptical. “It can’t be that good,” he thought. But OBrien was willing to try it, and a year later, after installing a toilet from Nature’s Head Inc., an Ohio company, the verdict is in. “We’re amazed,” he says.

Liquids and solids are directed to separate tanks in the toilet, says OBrien. The liquid tank is emptied when it fills up, and for the solids tank, a small fan blows over peat moss to help break down the contents. A hose connected to the tank vents to the outside.

Installation was simple, he says, although, “it takes a little room to put in. It may not be right for every boat, but we were lucky we had the space to do it. We started using it in May and didn’t empty it until October,” explains OBrien. “That was the only time we messed with it.” 

The best thing, according to OBrien? “It doesn’t smell—at all,” he says.

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