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Composting Toilet Project Bulletins 2008

posted May 18, 2008

We are transforming the bio-toilet site into earthen bench seating and a conversation area.

We are almost done the cobbing. Tomorrow, Victoria day, 12-4 we will finish shaping the bench.

The next task is cover the big bench with Earthen Plaster.

Please come by, help and learn by doing the whole process: mixing, applying and burnishing.

  • Wednesday May 21 3 - 7
  • Thursday May 22 3 - 7 only interrupted by grocery shopping at the Farmer's market

posted May 22, 2008

We finished the scratch layer now will plaster the second and last layer giving the bench it final look.

  • Friday May 23 1 - 5
  • Saturday I am taking off
  • But Sunday May 25 12 - 4
  • Monday May 26 12 - 4
  • And Tuesday May 27 3 - 7

Nick and Heidrun are cobbing

posted June 04, 2008

Yes, we are almost done,we only need some sunny and warm days to let the cob and plaster completely dry. Then we will cover the new bench with linseed oil for rain protection.


posted July 07, 2008

Yes we are done.

posted May 02, 2008

What's Happening

Fundraising continues in an effort to fund the next phase of the bio-toilet. In the meantime, we will be temporarily transforming the bio-toilet site into earthen bench seating and a conversation area.

This area will be one of the locations of the Dufferin Grove speaker series (see the newsletters for topics and dates).

We will be starting the transforming process May 11 daily 12 - 4pm until we are finished.

If you would like to come cob with us, just drop on by, or e-mail:


posted April 18, 2008

Earthbaggers Extraordinaire are coming to Dufferin Grove Park
Saturday April 26, evening, at Dufferin Grove Park rinkhouse. Public dinner at 6:00pm (donation), Speakers at 7:30 (free)

See event's poster

From Doni and Kaki's website

From Georgie Donais:

I'm thrilled to announce that earthbaggers extraordinaire Doni Kiffmeyer and Kaki Hunter are coming to Toronto next weekend. We have invited them to give us a presentation at the park about their work around the globe next Saturday (April 26). More details to come. If you have an interest in seeing interesting and successful examples of natural building shared by two very interesting and entertaining people, then please come on by the rinkhouse next Saturday evening.

See the website of Doni and Kaki at

Earthbagging experts

Doni Kiffmeyer and Kaki Hunter

may be planning a trip to Ontario in the spring of 2008. If they do, we will invite them to give their presentation at the park. This is a not-to-be-missed event; their presentation is as educational as it is hilarious!




THE NATURE OF THINGS, Breathe Architects

posted June 14, 2007


The architect working on the earthen toilet at Dufferin Grove Park, Martin Liefhebber, is featured in an upcoming Nature of Things episode. Details follow.



Join David Suzuki as he travels across Canada to discover how to build environmentally friendly houses using strawbale and rammed earth, and tapping into wind, ground and solar power.

There are now two airdates:

Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBC-TV

Saturday, June 23 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBC Newsworld

You can check out the website at:

To see a clip of the new show, on the above page, go to the Menu on the right side and choose: Video: Watch an excerpt.

Cash Award; Wrangling Continues

posted June 9, 2007


While we continue to wrangle regarding permission to continue our cob composting toilet project, some good news; the project has received a small cash award from Alterna Savings. We are also pleased to be able to issue charitable receipts for private donations through our partnership with Phoenix Community Foundation. Donations are welcome; email me at for more details.

In other news: Other innovators intent on increasing Torontonians' quality of life are running up against the same kind of institutional hurdles as we are. Christopher Hume writes in this morning's Toronto Star about Toronto's new urban beach:

We have created a culture of anxiety and negativity that pervades our lives. The fear of risk is one thing, but we have crossed a line and entered a zone of paranoia that makes it easier just to say no, to do nothing.

To make matters worse, we have bred a public sector that sees initiatives like HtO as incursions into what rightfully belongs to it, not us. The knee-jerk response is not to enable, say, the building of innovative beaches such as this, but to figure out ways of killing the project. The preferred method is death by a thousand cuts.

You can read the full article entitled Against all odds, a beach! here:


Cobbing Update

posted June 2, 2007


Well, the architect, engineer, city staff and I are still wrangling with the Ontario Building Code, trying to find a way to build our non-standard building in a standard world. Whether we get to cob this summer remains up in the air; the compromise we are trying to reach will cost thousands of dollars and involve lots of concrete and steel, all things that natural building tries to avoid.

Meanwhile, interest in alternative building techniques continues to grow. I was the recipient of a 2007 Award of Excellence as a finalist in the Green Toronto Awards this year. Cob in the Park and I are the subject of an interview in the July/August issue of Natural Life magazine . I have also written an entry for the upcoming book Green uTOpia, to be released later this year.

We are doing a cob project with school kids on Wednesdays (if you want to help, come on down) and we've run out of the bricks for bench foundations. If you have a few that you would be willing to give us, would you mind dropping them off inside the snow fence enclosure that surrounds the cob toilet, and then emailing me to let me know? We need bricks for this Wednesday. Thanks for your help!

On Monday, fellow Canadian cobber David Sheen is presenting an audiovisual presentation about earthen structures around the world; details follow.


Monday, June 4 @ 7:00 p.m.
Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St W
2nd floor / Committee Room #1

Building Healthy Houses & Reclaiming Communities

an audiovisual presentation about cob and adobe structures in Africa, Arabia, England, & America

with David Sheen


Tuesday, June 5 @ 6:00 p.m. SHARP
Brunswick Theatre / 296 Brunswick Ave
just S of Bloor / behind Futures Bakery

A Year of (A)narchy
in Israel & Palestine

an audiovisual presentation & discussion on co-creating communities of resistance under all kinds of occupation

with David Sheen

Garbage Warrior film

posted April 27, 2007


It seems that others around the world are running into the same regulatory hurdles as we are when they try to build in an ecologically sustainable way. I saw this film yesterday at HotDocs, and I highly recommend it. It has one more showing tomorrow; details below.


Garbage Warrior

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you're renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of "earthship biotecture" by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four different countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century. Co-presented with Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival.

Saturday, April 28
4:45 PM - The Isabel Bader Theatre

93 Charles Street West
Toronto, ON

Uncovering the Foundation, Saturday April 21, Green Toronto Award Candidate

Uncovering starts Saturday around 11am

posted April 19, 2007


It feels like spring out there, and I know that when the weather warms up, your mind automatically turns to cobbing. Regarding the earthen building/composting toilet project in Dufferin Grove Park, the city's best architects and engineers are currently spending some time with the plans. Earthen building is not covered in the current building code, so the project is a puzzle, but we'll keep working on getting the approval we need.

In other news, I have been nominated for a Green Toronto award; I am one of three finalists in the leadership category. The awards ceremony is on Tuesday, May 1, in the evening, and everyone is invited to attend. More information below.

This Saturday, April 21, starting around 11am, we will be uncovering the foundation so that I can do some comprehensive measuring and figuring. We are looking for people to come by and help with the disassembly and the carting of things to storage elsewhere in the park. Please come by if you are available! (Bring gloves.)

In celebration of Earth Day, there will be pizza baking and other activities. Add to that some fantastic weather and a chance to help with hauling, and it looks like the park is the place to be this Saturday!


PS: There's a special Friday night supper April 20th at the park.

Green Toronto info:

Mayor David Miller, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and Members of Toronto City Council invite you to a ceremony in recognition of this year’s Green Toronto Awards.

The awards honour and celebrate leading companies, organizations and individuals who have contributed to the greening of Toronto. Come out and celebrate the achievements of our Green Toronto Award winners.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. W., Council Chamber
Awards presentation 7 8:30 p.m.
Refreshments 8:30 9:30 p.m.

Seating is limited, so please arrive early. Elevators to the Council Chamber will open at 6:30 p.m. Additional seating for a televised broadcast will be available in the rotunda.

Please RSVP:




posted October 15, 2006

A Local Neighbour Distributes a Flyer

If you live close to the park, you may have received a flyer in your mailbox yesterday from a group calling themselves the Bloor Dufferin Residents' Committee. It is basically a reprise of a letter sent to Councillor Giambrone in the summer, to which I supplied responses at the time addressing their concerns; posted here. Point by point responses to the latest missive can be found here.

The councillor did a neighbourhood drop of 350 flyers prior to the September 12 meeting to make sure everyone had been informed. Indeed, the Councillor has worked extremely hard on this file, providing leadership with a vision of environmental and community stewardship.

Request: If you did happen to receive a flyer advertising the September 12 meeting, can you email me back, along with your street name and closest intersecting street?

In other news, we're in the news again. NOW magazine published an article on the composting toilet last week; click here for more.



posted September 26, 2006

Winding Down for the Winter


Things are winding down! John, Geoff and I capped la toilette this past weekend, and Heidrun and Jenny will be doing the final site clean up tomorrow (Wednesday) from 11am to 4pm. If anyone is around and looking for something to do, please drop by to lend a hand.

Alan (filling in for the vacationing Georgie)

posted September 17, 2006

Article in the Star


Nice day for cobbing! Today, next Wednesday and maybe Thursday are probably our last days of mixing mud and earthbagging. Then we'll install a temporary roof and let the project rest until spring.

Also, we're in the paper again! Check out this link in today's Star.


posted September 13, 2006

Thank you


I am humbled by the support of the community as evidenced by the 80-plus people (not counting kids!) that attended last night's meeting regarding the earthen sculpture/composting toilet in Dufferin Grove Park. People were really able to offer Park officials and the councillor their heartfelt wishes that this project continue, and continue in the spirit in which it was intended: as a community-created project. Thanks as well to all who sent letters of support to the councillor, and who will be following up on the remaining issues with city officials.

I am also relieved to report that, this morning, we met with an architect who believes we can go forward with only minor adjustments to the plan. He believes the approach we are taking is sound and safe, and he is interested in helping to move the process along.

So we'll be finishing up with the earthbagging this week, and then will create a temporary roof over the foundation for winter protection. If all goes well, next spring we will be able to work together again, and create this thing that many of us have had in our minds for so long!



Below: Some images of what the exterior might possibly resemble.


posted September 15, 2006

Dance Party tonight


Tonight's supper has morphed into an all-out dance party! As long as the weather holds, we'll be getting down beside the basketball court after supper tonight. Tunes courtesy of DJ Ted Carlisle.

Bring warm clothes and your dancing shoes, and we'll see you there!


posted September 10, 2006

Material wanted:


Do you have any of this kicking around in your garage that we could take off your hands?

Dimpled waterproof membrane for outside of foundations (Platon is one brand) - a piece about 20' long x 8' high

Here's a link to what the stuff looks like:

Alternately, we could make use of very heavy plastic sheeting (polyethylene, 6 mil or higher), of about the same length.

Let us know, and we'll come and get it, as we need some shortly.

Thanks for your help!


posted September 8, 2006

Crucial Meeting:


Do you want to make sure the composting toilet project is allowed to continue?

Do you want to make sure it remains a community-built project?

Then please attend this crucial meeting to voice your support!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
By the cob wall
(rinkhouse in case of rain)

Bring your kids! There will be the food cart, child minding, campfire (weather permitting).

See below for more details. Thank you for your support!


Toilet Down The Drain?

"People want our public and private buildings to enhance the look and feel of our communities ... They also want them to help inspire love and affection for our city and contribute to the heart and soul of the city." Paul Bedford, Toronto Star: Jul 23, 2006.

The Earthen Sculpture/Composting Toilet project at the south end of the park is once again struggling for its existence. The ongoing drama arises from persistant bureaucratic road blocks that threaten to shut it down at any time. It's becoming a case of 'death by a thousand cuts'.

Why build this facility?

Children need a clean toilet facility close to the playground, as many toddlers currently use trees and shrubbery as toilets. This is a concern for public health. Toronto is facing a waste crisis right now, and if a project suggesting options (paid for by $12,000 in grants and a $9,000 anonymous donation) can't proceed because of political and bureaucratic indecision, how can we as a city make the big, difficult decisions?

"Simply put, people are ashamed that we continue to ship our garbage to Michigan and remain incapable of solving our own waste problems." Paul Bedford, Toronto Star: Jul 23, 2006.

What hurdles does the project face?

Our elected officials are struggling to commit to a course of community driven innovation. In the meantime, the city’s bureaucracy is forced to apply regulatory policy unsuited to low tech, ecological, community-built solutions. Recently, the project has been told that all 'workers' must wear steel-toed work boots, safety glasses and gloves when on the 'work site'. All volunteers are dedicated to safety as an absolute priority, especially when children are present. However, those that worked on, or observed, last year’s cob wall project know that one mixes cob with one's bare feet and applies the straw, clay and sand mixture by hand. The current (and not doubt future) regulatory hurdles threatens the very nature of the project: a community initiative, built by any and all, large and small.

Many city employees have publicly supported this project, and indeed some have taken great risks to see it move forward. But they (and we) are confronted with a bleak reality: only strong, bold political leadership can allow pilot projects like this one to go ahead, now and in the future. As a community we must encourage our leaders by offering clear public support for viable community-building and community-built alternatives like the composting toilet project.

What can you do?

Please take the time to attend the meeting on Tuesday.

If you are unable to attend, please send a quick letter to the local councillor, Adam Giambrone, and the mayor's office.

Be kept up to date: send a note to and ask to be put on the mailing list.

And finally, view the complete story at

posted September 8, 2006

Working This Weekend (Sept 9-10):


As usual, we are working today and this weekend. If you are in the park for the Havelock Street Festival, drop on by and stomp on some mud!


Fine Print: - Mixing is done outside the enclosure. Everyone is welcome to join; bare feet work best - Anyone inside the enclosure is required to wear CSA-approved steel-toed boots, gloves and eye protection. We have a few pairs of each to lend if you want to earthbag; bring socks.

posted August 28, 2006

Working Tuesday August 29:


To take advantage of the good weather, we are going to be working in the park this week starting on Tuesday, August 29. You are all invited to join us, if you are available!

Time: 11am-5pm Activity: making mixes and earth bagging

Making mixes is a great activity for kids and adults, and can be done in bare feet. Helping with the earth bags could use a couple of adults with good aim :)

Any shovelling and wheel-barrowing require steel-toed boots. Bring them if you have them; we also have a pair or two to lend for slipping on when required.

Thank you!


posted August 9, 2006

Further adventures in cobbing:


Further adventures in cobbing:

1) Today, the toilet is scheduled to arrive! If you are free this afternoon (Wednesday, August 9) and have an interest in lifting heavy things, please come down to the park, as we will be wrestling the toilet system off the back of the delivery truck and on to the ground. I am sorry that I can't be more specific about the time of its arrival.

2) This week we are working from Wednesday until Sunday, 11am to 3:30pm. Activities may include:
- moving gravel
- making a modified cob mix to fill earthbags
- finishing the cob bench
- plastering the earthbag bench

Childminding is available for a limited number of children
Cobbing does not require shoes; children are welcome
Earth bagging requires closed toe shoes and gloves; best suited for adults


posted August 1, 2006

Bulletin: Upcoming Work This Week


This week, we are working from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 3:30pm.

Cob bench-building
Digging/earth bagging

Childminding is available for a limited number of children
Cobbing does not require shoes; children are welcome
Digging/earth bagging requires closed toe shoes and gloves; best suited for adults

See you there!


posted July 25, 2006

Bulletin: Upcoming Work


Thanks to those who came out to help us dig this past rainy weekend! This week's schedule is still murky, but we do plan to have a work bee on:

Saturday and Sunday, July 29 & 30, 2006
11am - 3:30pm
Activity: Maybe digging
Maybe earthbagging

What the heck is earthbagging, you say? Check out this link for some images:

Again, shoes will be a must, as there will be flying shovels, and maybe some barb wire!

I'll let you know if there will be any mid-week work bees.


posted July 21, 2006

Bulletin: Work this Weekend

Saturday and Sunday, July 22 & 23, 2006
11am - 4pm
Activity: digging the foundation


- It's tricky for small kids to be around now that the hole is getting deeper. We will have childminding for up to five children on these days so that they can play supervised in the park.
- Bring gloves, shovels, lunch, and a wheelbarrow if you have one
- Note that bylaw officers are apparently going around, citing people who are not wearing regulation equipment while working. This includes steel-toed work boots. If you've got them, bring them. At the very least, please wear closed-toe shoes for the dig.

Can you spare any of this?

- 750 gram yogurt containers (about six)
- six inch plastic planter pots (about six)
- a bag of Ready Mix concrete
- dowels (1 1/4" by 4')
- metal stock (1/2" to 3/4" by 1/8" and 8' long) (about eight)
- a roll of heavy gage, four point barbed wire



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