Compost Toilet Co-design & Community Build @ Mile End Community Garden


Throughout 2024, we are co-designing and building an accessible compost toilet for community garden visitors in Tower Hamlets. This project has been funded by Just FACT, and is part of a borough wide network of people and projects, coming together to create the building blocks for an alternative food system that is democratic, environmentally sustainable, and people-driven.

Our co-design process has been inspired by Design Justice principles and Mia Mingus' writings on Liberatory Access. Through this we hope to demonstrate ways that communities can come together to organise and co-create the infrastructures we need to care for each other and our environments. This is a key ingredient for building alternative systems, whether that be food systems, economic systems or sewage systems!

Below are some extracts from our design brief so-far:

How does it connect to local eco-systems and neighbourhoods?

"This toilet is part of a web of connection across the neighbourhood, canals, environment and universe. The compost we create will benefit us and our communities (land dwellers and boat dwellers), the hedgerow, mother earth, trees, plants, fungi, animals, microbes, all lives & organisms. It is part of a circular system in which nutrients are returned to the ground as natural fertilisers."

What does your dream toilet look like?

"We described together what our dream toilet looks like and started to envision a rounded wooden structure that is insulated, perhaps with hay or straw. Natural and locally sourced materials are used throughout (cob / clay / stones / recycled rainwater), and there is natural/ maybe poo/ pee-powered / maybe solar light from above and splashes of colour from mosaics/ tiles/ objects/ mirrors/ beer bottles/ laughing gas canisters/ posters/ books and furnishings. The toilet makes us question what a ‘natural’ material really is (glass, metal, plastic?)... if humans are part of nature, and if everything we make once came from the earth, how can our waste materials also be reconciled within the ecosystems we are part of? There are lots of interesting things to look at and read inside which make you want to stay a while in the toilet. There are also some nice views out of the toilet, and up to the sky, connecting you to your surroundings. This is a quiet space, where you can close your eyes and contemplate, listen to the world outside, feel warmth, feel some air flow, and feel protected. The space is safe and clean with natural smells (maybe a sweet smell of straw, timber and compost that has a good balance of carbon and nitrogen), and running water, preferably warm, either harvested from the roof or from the taps."

After 3 Co-design workshops throughout March and April we brought all our ideas, conversations and drawings together into one design, which we are currently finalising, and will keep tweaking as we gather materials and start building.

If you'd like to be involved in the next phases of the design and build please sign up to the mailing list here.