Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Poop Scoop

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It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

On April 27 Sasha Kramer '99 returned to campus to give a talk on ecological sanitation-- the science of turning human waste (yes, we do mean poop!) into safe and sanitary fertilizer.

Sasha, who majored in biology at Reed and earned a PhD in ecology from Stanford, is the cofounder and director of Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), an ecological sanitation aid group in Haiti.

What SOIL's work lacks in glitz it makes up for in unabashed practicality. SOIL has constructed 300 dry composting toilets in Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake of January 2010. These toilets transform poop into compost that in turn boosts agricultural production, which then helps rebuild the ravaged nation. An added bonus is that the composting process kills the bacteria that cause cholera, which has ravaged the island since the earthquake.

Sasha's work has been covered by Reed magazine and by New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof, who says he became interested in SOIL "because it addresses two of the developing world's greatest but least glamorous challenges. One is sanitation, for human waste in poor countries routinely spreads disease and parasites. The second is agriculture, for poor countries must increase crop yields if they are to overcome poverty and hunger."

The composting process takes a year, resulting in a substance that by Kristof's first-hand account "feels and smells like rich potting soil."

In her talk at Reed, sponsored by the Environmental Studies Committee and by the Walter Krause Economics Lecture Fund, Sasha addressed the need for integrated approaches to environmental problems, with a particular emphasis on the role of international organizations in global development.

You might say it's classic example of wresting ordure from chaos...

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