Composting Loos – a lesson in resilience

Children visiting Hazel Hill Wood often take a healthy and delighted interest in our compost loos: they immediately see the sense of them, and often ask, “Why don’t we all have them?” On our recent Conservation And Wellness Weekend, we had four kids under 11, who were fascinated to see how human poos turn into excellent, odour-free compost after a couple of years.

After our last conservation stint, on Sunday morning, I took everyone on a guided walk to see what they could learn about their own resilience from this natural ecosystem.

It was a great experience to explain my ideas to a group including children. One of their first questions was ‘What is resilience?’: the simplest I could put it was ‘how to stay happy when things get bad’. My model of natural resilience has 8 principles, and I managed to offer a really simple version of the first 3 which everyone could understand.

The third of these principles is composting: the way that natural systems have no waste, because every output becomes a useful input somewhere. For this one, I led the group into the Dark Wood, a gloomy area dense with Douglas Fir. I asked the children what they thought happened to all the dead pine needles and twigs under our feet, and they already knew this was food to help the trees grow. They liked the idea that when you get upset, this is waste you can use too: like old leaves or manure, it may seem messy, but you can change it into something useful.