Building a dry composting toilet

Authored by:
Vanessa Correa

Vanessa Correa

Written by Michelle Luu (Haverford College), Internship in Sustainability and the Environment.


For my internship, I was tasked with building a beautiful and efficient dry composting toilet at the local Monteverde Friends School. The organization that I was primarily working with is called CORCLIMA, which stands for the Monteverde Commission for Resilience to Climate Change.​

Challenge accepted! 

This organization, rooted in Costa Rica, is following the IPCC protocols and actions to deal with climate change, ultimately hoping to help Monteverde become one of the first carbon neutral regions in the country. As the climate change creates more extreme dry seasons in Monteverde, water scarcity and conservation has become more important to acknowledge and address. One way to mitigate and adapt to this climate issue is with a dry composting toilet. A dry composting toilet uses gravity instead of potable water to “flush” human waste down and allows you to collect it for compost.

Quality test

When my supervisor, Gaby McAdam, was describing the internship, my curiosity was sparked. I had never heard of a dry composting toilet until that day and I knew I had to learn more about it. I figured that the best way to learn is by doing and I was excited to produce something that would be useful to the community in Monteverde. I was ready to take away tools and knowledge that could be brought back to my school in the United States as well!

Gaby and me

About half of the internship was spent doing research: learning about how the composting toilet worked, what types of materials were needed, and how to construct it. Many of the materials that we used were recycled and donated materials, buying materials mostly for the system itself. I also worked towards creating a bio-garden for the school for the greywater and urine. In addition, educational informational materials were created for those at the school and in the community to learn more about this awesome system that can be built by anyone with reused materials and creativity.

Working hard!

I am most proud of the finished product: the toilet itself! I knew nothing about a dry composting toilet before and learned so much about how helpful it can be in water conservation. This entire process was an amazing learning opportunity for me and was the first time I was able to see my drawings and ideas on paper amount to an entire building that I helped create with the help of others. Not only was I able to contribute something that can help water conservation during these drier seasons in Monteverde, but I was part of a process that can potentially inspire others to create their own dry composting toilets!

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