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Interdependence and Waste Management; or, the Destroilet

The eco-yoga toilet post here a few days ago made me think. About interdependence. About my childhood. About the Destroilet.

When I was growing up, my family had a little place in southern Vermont, a tiny vacation cabin for skiing,
fishing, summering, rusticating, and such. 

Our cabin was on a small pond, sewage tanks were a problem, and rather than contribute to runoff and wastewater problems, my dad, an accomplished fluid systems engineer who
had designed numerous wastewater treatment plants (He liked to tell
people “Your [expletive] is my bread and butter!”, much to the mortification
of my mom) decided to act with awareness.

It was the 1970s. Dad read the Mother Earth News and Euell Gibbons’s classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus. His work made him acutely aware of the interdependence of systems both natural and man-made. So to prevent sewage runoff
and protect the pond, he ordered a new toilet from Sweden
for the Vermont house.


The Destroilet.

I kid you not.

This toilet rid the world of human waste by incinerating it. After
use, when the top lid was closed, a small, thick, double-layered metal lid would simultaneously seal over the well at the bottom. A jet of burning gas would leap forth into the well, cremating the solid waste and vaporizing the liquid. A chimney to the
outdoors carried away the vapors.

Not very far, it didn’t. The air quality in the vicinity after use
of the Destroilet was indescribably memorable. The pond remained pristine; fish frolicked, newts flourished, we and the neighbor children swam and splashed. Who knows what was floating around in the air. Imagine if all our neighbors had installed the same?


We children gleefully terrorized our youngest brother with the
Destroilet for years. It’s a wonder the poor child was ever successfully trained. All too often, raising the
lid before the recommended 5 minutes of cremation would reveal burning embers of waste, glowing and pulsing a terrifying and hellish red. A toasty seat indeed.

Oh, those environmental Swedes; Oh, those conscious engineers. The pond was pristine; the air was . . . odd. Actually, the whole neighborhood smelled funny sometimes. We cringed about Dad and the Destroilet for years.

Years later, when I started studying Buddhism, and when I read One City and started thinking seriously about interdependence, I remembered the Destroilet.

Every action we take has effects. But that’s no
reason not to take them. It’s just good to remember how big our
neighborhood is. To remember we have neighbors, in fact. Who breathe, just like we do.

That’s what I try to remember. Every since Buddhism. Ever since the Destroilet.

Comments read comments(15)
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posted May 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm

now i can keep my two minute morning naps and i don’t have to worry about being cold.

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Steve Silberman

posted May 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Very funny. Having been an avid reader of the Whole Earth Catalog and Co-Evolution Quarterly in my teendom, I actually remember the Destroilet. It was part of the science-fiction hippie vibe I liked thinking about. *Of course* there was some secret flaw, like a terrible smell. But at least people were thinking outside the crapper. :)

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posted May 4, 2009 at 9:59 pm

This may be my favorite One City post ever.
EVER. I mean it. The similes of burning crap to psychic waste product are now flowing.

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posted May 5, 2009 at 9:46 am


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Julia May

posted May 5, 2009 at 10:58 am

Love this.

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posted May 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

i’m never going to the bathroom again.

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Jay Edwards

posted September 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I had a destroilet in a cabin I bought in the late 90’s. It was used by the original owner before plumming was available, but it was just sitting under the stairs when I had it. It became a conversation piece until I finally gave it away to someone who wanted to build a tree house and use it. Not sure if it was ever put back into service.

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Judith Sine

posted March 15, 2010 at 8:30 am

Clean water is just as important as clean air. Clean air gets more press right now because there is a lot more money being funneled into it and where the money goes, so goes the press. The number 3 cause of death in low income countries and number 5 worldwide is from diarrhea transmitted largely from contaminated water. It is debatable if any of the top ten causes of death world wide are directly related to an ambient air issue.
Your posting amused me. Lately I have been thinking if we were to bring sanitation to a third world country, where no infrastructure exists, would we bring them the status quo or would something more innovative like maybe solar powered incinerating toilets be a better alternative? I recalled using a “destrolet” as a child at a grange in New Hampshire. I loved the sound it made when you used it! I recall no odor. What you experienced was either a design or installation problem. Now I am looking to see how far the technology has come since my experience 30 – 40 years ago and happened upon your post.
What amused me most was that my father was a plumber and printed right on his business cards was the exact phrase, “your sh*t is our bread and butter.”
I sh*t you not, (another one of his favorite sayings) this is a true story

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Kate Meetington

posted April 24, 2010 at 6:08 am

It is certainly interesting for me to read the article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon. BTW, pretty good design your blog has, but don’t you think it should be changed once in a few months?
Kate Meetington
shaving mug

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Avril Swenson

posted May 5, 2010 at 6:48 pm

It is certainly interesting for me to read the article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more on this blog soon. By the way, pretty good design this site has, but how about changing it from time to time?
Avril Swenson
uk escort girls

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Scott Sabol

posted July 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

My parents bought a cottage in Maine in the early 1980s, and it had a Destroilet. One always had to remember to not follow the previous user in too quickly, lest you suffer some singing from the residual heat. Any of my friends who visited the cottage were amused by the technology. The neighborhood smell is an issue I can attest to.
We eventually opted for a septic tank and regular plumbing, giving the Destoilet to a neighbor.

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brunette girl

posted August 13, 2010 at 4:44 am

Rather interesting place you’ve got here. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.
Avril Benedict

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Septic Tank Cost

posted September 12, 2010 at 1:08 am

The Destroilet is a very interesting concept and the air issue is quite amusing. Air quality is just as important as water quality. We are quickly destroying our planet and we need to action to curb the destruction. Although the air might have smelled after using the destroilet, I wonder if the impact on the air is less than the impact a regular toilet has on the water.
This might be a good topic for a scientific study…

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L. F. Miller

posted December 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

Moving the bathroom into the house.
When I was young my parents bought a small house that had an outhouse instead of an indoor bathroom. It was on a small lot of about 120’x150’ in an established community.
The neighbors all had septic tanks installed but instead of a standard finger system, they simply ran the overflow into the open ditches that networked the back property lines and then into culverts along the streets.
When it came time to install our tank, the neighbors had fits and wanted to bring the health department into the discussion and knowing that there was no way that we could get that accomplished and the city lines were a couple miles away, my parents looked for an alternative solution. In the meantime the outhouse was our old standby.
This was getting frustrating because in the small cluster of homes, several of the women had far too little to do, so they filled their time watching the goings on at our house. I remember one summer day, the one neighbor who lived behind and adjacent to the property line, watched and then called mom, asking if one of us were sick because we had used the outhouse several times that afternoon.
After chemical toilets were considered and discarded as unapplicable, composting also, dad found a store that had THE ANSWER!!!! The salesman assured him that this toilet would have no smell, weekly maintenance of removing a tablespoon of dry odorless ash. Praises be!!! No longer would we have the disgusting bad choice between a chamber pot that had to be emptied or directly placing the excretory collection directly in the outhouse. It was so incredibly wonderful that people would put them on their several hundred thousand dollar (at that time) yacht.
My father bought the dream machine called a “Destroilet” along with all the connections, triple wall stainless pipe and ordered yours truly to get it hooked up to the gas line.
This delightful contraption, as the sales pitch went, used a flow of natural gas burning to reduce the excretory output of a family of 5 to the afore mentioned dry ash while at the same time, pulling any possible smell and heat out the chimney and leaving the interior of the house in pristine excellence and smelling as delicately as the Queenk of England’s boudoir.
As the installation came to a close, we anxiously awaited, all excretory canals filled and waiting to deposit their donation to the “giant step for mankind,” in our new prize possession.
We plugged the unit into its own electrical outlet beside our gleaming porcelain Destroilet. Then following the directions carefully, we lifted the lid and heard a muted fan come to life to graciously conduct any aroma from the slightest toot to the most deafening chainsaw roaring bi-labial fricative outside without the least hesitation. Outstanding, it was just as he had told us. The final test we were to perform was to take about 18” of toilet tissue, wad it up and drop it in and then close the lid for three minutes.
The lid closed with great trepidation. Never in the course of the Olympic Games was a watch followed so closely. Finally with a few seconds left to run, the lid was anxiously lifted and sure enough there was nothing left but a slight dusting of ash. Our life was to be changed. We could poop in the house like real ‘mericans rather some third world residents.
I will say that this was the last time anything went as it was supposed to go. The family took their respective turns depositing in the indoor repository. The lid was shut and the burner came on with the roar of a low powered leaf blower. We went about our work waiting for the 20 minute cycle to finish.
The salesman had to be a terroristic Orthodox Rastafarian (since to call him a standard terrorist would have the peace loving muslims rioting in 15 countries) may the zombies haunt him forevermore, to have such a despicably moronic and netherworldly joke to pull on innocent desperate people.
The smell coming from our house was an eye watering smell of turds being cremated with overtones of burning urine. To get a resemblance, should you so desire to feed that particular perversion, remove the contents from the litter box and then add equal amounts of pee. Once accomplished, take your favorite propane torch and proceed to toast, burn, and char the contents while boiling the pee.
One time someone had an emergency and tried to use it before the 20 minute cycle was finished and got scalded by the urine steam.
The only thing I can say good about this was that if the nosy neighbors tried to have a BBQ, we could shut it down by burning the Destroilet. One of them wanted to know if something had died that we were trying to get rid of by burning instead of burying.
The alleged weekly chore ended up being an every second or third day of scooping out a half gallon of mess that was toasted on the outside and a raw mush on the inside. We were to take turns cleaning this fire breathing turd eater but I found it so disgusting that I chose to use the outhouse so I didn’t have to clean it so often.
What I had to do was to disassemble it and clean the fan. The fan that took mostly took the fumes out of the house, sucked all the fumes and ash through the blades and of course the heat and the acid in the urine caused the fan to plug up. In addition to the poop scooping, my job was to pull the top apart and clean the motor and the blades and after oiling, put it back together so it could BBQ more poop.
I have seen the company that took over Destroilet advertising how “green” this solution is for you. If having your own in home crematorium is your goal, knock yourself out. If you need a bathroom fixture, DO NOT get one of these type of toilets unless you have an uncontrollable scatological obsession.
If someone tries to sell you one, know that they are lower than a Nigerian scammer and are just waiting to part you from your money. They might even wait until you get to your car to roll on the floor making fun of you, but don’t count on it.

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posted July 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers?
I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything
I’ve worked hard on. Any recommendations?

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