My Role: Founder • CEO • Designer • BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT • Brand Development • Client Development • research
How might we increase public awareness and acceptance for ecological sanitation and nutrient cycling?
How might we leverage user experience to increase public acceptance of human excrement as a resource?
• Target event sanitation as a opportunity to reach a large number of the public who might not otherwise seek out sustainable solutions
• Redesign the portable toilet to provide a new, positive experience of natural sanitation
• Utilize toilet exteriors so that units have a dual function as info kiosk
• Use an onsite attendant to provide engagement and education on ecological sanitation and nutrient cycling
Disrupting a stagnant industry and user experience for good
In 2015, I launched Nature Commode, the first commercial portable compost toilet company in the United States. The intent was to use uniquely designed, chemical free toilets as educational tools, at events, in order to expose the greatest number of people to ecological sanitation.
For many, it was the first time they had ever heard of any alternative to flush or chemical toilets. For some, it was initially challenging to use something that looked so foreign. But, upon using and exiting the toilet, we heard from so many about the surprisingly positive impression Nature Commode had on them.
To date the company has introduced over 250,000 people to ecological sanitation.
Competitive Analysis: Prior to launch, I conducted extensive research into the portable sanitation industry, ecological sanitation, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizer industry and potential for use of human derived fertilizers. I analyzed the market potential, competition, and profit potential.
Overcoming Regulatory Hurdles
With the long term intent of the company being to treat the collected effluent and create a commercial end product, I had to secure permits with multiple regulatory bodies: local, regional and statewide. The initial opposition strengthened my abilities to articulate uncomfortable topics to regulatory agents and strategize innovative approaches to secure their support.
Generative Research: Embedded in the business model was continual evolution of design and service offering. I conducted 1:1 interviews, surveys and field research to inform improvements on design and brand development.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT/ MANAGEMENT
I authored the business plan, strategic plan, budget and marketing plan. I secured all necessary permitting, insurance and bonding necessary to operate a sanitation company. I developed quote sheets and service agreements. I managed all client relations.
I, in collaboration with Richard Haskell, redesigned the portable restroom. Instead of a rectangular plastic box, the steel and fabric clad Nature Commode Popup Porta toilet folds out from just 10″ wide to a unique arch shape. When folded, the compact size enables us to increase the quantity we can transport on one vehicle, in contrast to a solid frame plastic box.
I intentionally selected green fabric as that green creates a calming sensation in addition to suggesting natural environments. Instead of a plastic bench, I created a wood bench, again using a calming material to impose a positive impression.
Nature Commode, as a name, was intentionally selected to suggest a completely new type of portable restroom. Folks are now referring to compost toilets as Nature Commodes, in much the same way that Honey Bucket has become synonymous with porta potties.
Exterior and interior signage incorporates positive imagery and wording to create a fun but informative experience. We’ve had many take photos of Nature Commode doors because they convey a colorful description of nutrient cycling and the environmental benefits of ecological sanitation. Inserted into the nutrient cycle phases is the term “gifting”, referring to the users contribution. This simple shift in labeling positively impacts many who have otherwise only assumed a negative connotation in relation to human excrement.
FORK TO FIELD
I created the phrase, “Fork to Field”, and inserted the term in the door graphics, in order to highlight the need for a holistic view on our food system that evolves the roll of eaters from consumers to valuable contributors.