Thursday, December 3, 2015

Are we wasting our waste?

Here it is December already and the world seems to be spinning at a rapid pace, as per usual......

Most of us are preparing for the end of the year in some way, reflecting back, looking forward, preparing for the holidays, watching our pocket books, putting on sweaters, roasting vegetables, and generally carrying on as if things are going to stay the same forever!

But most people can see that there are too many unprecedented unnatural disasters happening in different parts of the world in pretty much every season of every year for the past too many years to really ignore the changes happening on Planet Earth.

The Paris Climate summit currently happening is just the tip of the melting ice-burg, and many people are feeling complete overwhelm and exhaustion, topped off with a heavy dose of powerlessness, when it comes to saving our earth from the brink of disaster.

None of us really knows what to expect here.

But we do know that more and more and bigger and bigger natural disasters are happening, and with that means wide-scale disaster relief.

I recently had the distinct honor of interviewing one of the world's pioneers when it comes to rapid response disaster relief.  Stanford Ecologist Sasha Kramer was working in northern Haiti at the time of the 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince.

At that time, the organization she co-founded to install and manage composting toilets in urban and rural Haiti was 6 years in, she spoke fluent Haitian Kreyol, and was very well known and well-loved throughout Cap Haitien (the second largest city in Haiti).  She was working with a small team in Cap Haitien and in the surrounding towns with her organization SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livlihoods) and its partner Haitian-led organization, SOL (Sosyete Organize pou Lanati), when the earthquake struck.

What ensued after soon became international news, as relief organizations poured in to respond to the wide-scale loss.   Sasha and her team responded by jumping in a truck and driving straight to Port au Prince the following day, to be of service and to assess the needs, as well as to find friends who hopefully had survived the quake itself.

Very soon thereafter SOIL was granted an opportunity to install composting toilets at several IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camps.   As far as anyone knew at the time, this type of sanitation had never been done in an emergency response environment, but SOIL and SOL took a chance, scaled up their organizations, and went into over-drive training, building, hiring, installing, managing, hauling, storing, and transforming literally tons of safe, organic fertilizer on a weekly basis all throughout the city, while simultaneously rendering powerless one of the world's most ruthless killers:  water-borne disease.  (Can you say, "cholera"?  Since the earthquake of 2010 nearly 9,000 number of people have died from this disease in Haiti.....)

Sanitation is not something most people want to talk about on a regular basis.

But the moment a natural disaster takes away one's ability to defecate in a safe, dignified manner, all of that changes.  What would happen to MY ability to "go to the bathroom" if suddenly there was no water flowing to my house?

It's all well and good for Sasha and her organization to be setting up these systems "over there in Haiti".  But I live in the Bay Area.  I don't want to have to think about where I'm going to go to the bathroom!

We are constantly being told to "look out for the big one", "it's not a matter of if, but when", and "the plates are moving", etc.

I interviewed Sasha as the first of several interviews my team and I are conducting for our next project, a web series called "Waste(d)", which is exploring the possibilities of navigating away from flush toilets in the Industrialized nations, in favor of more sustainable practices such as, you guessed it, composting toilets.

In our interview Dr. Kramer suggested that, with all the infrastructure already in place for flushing toilets throughout residential and commercial buildings here in the "first world", it does not make any sense, and would be far too expensive to modify sanitation systems under normal circumstances.

However, as a contingency plan in the event of natural disaster, it makes a whole lot of sense to have a Plan B system in place for when and if our homes are suddenly without the capacity to flush our toilets.

There are many different ways to process and transform human waste, but the reality is, it actually holds nutrients and minerals which, when processed correctly, can be re-infused into our soils and gardens to energize agriculture.

When the big one comes, wouldn't it be nice to know there was a safe place to "go" which would not cause any further health hazards and could actually provide our gardens with healthy organic fertilizer?

Stay tuned.....

Saturday, September 5, 2015

California Water Policy Challenge

It is a crystal clear morning here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the air is cool.  I can see San Francisco lit up by morning sun from my porch in Richmond, an outer suburb about 15 miles from downtown SF.

But for a brief moment in time before getting out of bed, around 6:45am, with my curtains closed and the air cool, I thought I might have heard some sprinkles outside.

Me and my cat both looked up at the same time with an inquisitive expression -- why, that is a sound we haven't heard for some time!

But alas, it was only the sound of birds crunching across dried leaves.......

I have noticed that there are fewer birds in my yard than this time last year.  Then they were busy, fluttering about and hustling for the winter.  Now......I barely see or hear them.

The drought is in full swing here in California, the trees digging deep, deep underground to find any remaining moisture.  The mid-range critters such as raccoons, opossums, coyotes -- where are they getting their water?  

I have been leaving bowls of it in my yard for the raccoons and opossum that come around.  I have seen them lapping it up...

The state is also going to great lengths, digging deep, trying to respond to immediate areas of crisis:  there are many towns in the central valley who literally have no water coming out of their faucets.

Just think about that for one second: there is no water coming out of your faucet.

This is the reality for many people, right now, living here in California.

That's why my team and I are submitting an application to the California Water Policy Challenge.

We think the state would do well to reconsider its use of flush toilets, and implement a wide-spread change in policy around sanitation.

We recognize that in order to do this, it will require a paradigm shift about what waste is, and how to manage it.  We realize folks think of dry, composting toilets as a great idea for those "poor people in the developing world", and not something "we do here in the civilized world".

But we are interested in changing that thinking by creating interest in and strategies for alternative ways to dispose of and manage our waste.

In Bristol, England they are transforming it into methane gas and fueling public transportation with it. In Port au Prince and throughout Haiti they are transforming their waste into rich, organic fertilizer (hello

We are excited to be a part of creating a * global movement * to eliminate the need to waste our precious water for flushing down our waste.

Do you think the California Water Policy Challenge will go for it?

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flush toilets are a thing of the past when you look at the future

The governor of California has recently declared a state-wide emergency as a result of a drought which has resulted in the driest winter in the state's recorded history.  Governor Brown is asking folks to reduce consumption by 20%, and it occurs to me that we really ought to consider minimizing or even banning the use of the flush toilet.

It's so out-moded anyway!

When you think about it, flush toilets are the ultimate in over-consumption, as normal toilets use nearly 5 gallons for every flush.

Most of us here in the U.S. grew up in homes with flush toilets, everyone has flush toilets; they seem like the norm.  And they certainly are the norm if you live in one of the few remaining and so-called "first-world" countries such as the United States or in the European Union.

But when you look at the rest of the world, where more than 1 billion people live without access to proper sanitation, a flush toilet is most definitely a privilege few enjoy.

In various countries in Africa, in Haiti, in Peru, in many places throughout the world, dry toilets, i.e., toilets which require no water to flush them, are being used more and more.  These dry toilets, which use a process known as ecological sanitation, ("eco-san"), have thus come to be thought of as toilets for poor people.  Toilets for the impoverished.

But I would like to suggest otherwise.

I would like to suggest that the state of California would do well to examine the work of SOIL in Haiti (, where for the past decade this well-loved Haitian-staffed organization has been collecting human waste and following it all the way through the transformational cycle to fertilize gardens and stimulate agricultural yield, economic growth, all while eliminating the cause of wide-spread water-borne disease.

Why can something like this not be done here?  There is no reason.   Currently our sanitation system is very-well designed to allow for the waste to leave our bodies and depart our homes within a matter of seconds, traveling through tunnels and pipelines few care to consider when driving over streets, highways, and parking lots.....

What if we are wasting our water and our waste, every time we flush?  What if that substance is actually a resource we would do well to harvest?  (With proper scientific systems obviously....)

I would like to propose that one of the best ways to reduce water usage throughout the state of California would be to install eco-san toilets throughout all public spaces, thereby saving water; creating jobs; creating chemical-free organic fertilizer; and minimizing the impact of the drought for all Californians.

If folks begin to see and use these toilets in shopping malls, outdoor concerts, in our state parks, they will begin to realize that it is actually a far more pleasurable experience to use a toilet of this nature, particularly if you compare it to a typical out-house.  There are no flies.  There is no smell.  And it creates a no-waste cycle which energizes the economy, creates jobs, reduces dependence on chemical fertilizers, and could potentially save the state of California millions of gallons of water every single hour.

Until such time as eco-san is the norm world-wide, I've taken to flushing only solid wastes at my home.  Liquid wastes don't require a flush!  I just put the paper in a garbage bin, and keep the lid closed....

Monday, October 28, 2013

UCLoo Festival

Next month Holy Crap! the film will be shown at the University College of London's Loo festival as part of their initiative to spark creative solutions to the global sanitation crisis.

We are thrilled to have been asked to participate in this wonderful event, and look forward to seeing the results of their Make-a-thon contest!!!

This contest is such a wonderful response to the global sanitation crisis.

In London alone, more than 400 million litres of drinking water are flushed down the toilet every day!! Just imagine how much water is wasted on a daily basis throughout all of the developing world.   What if flush toilets were to become a thing of the past?

What if water-borne disease were to become a thing of the past?  What if the waste itself were to become a vital resource, critical to agricultural development and economic independence from foreign aid?

We can't wait to see what the makers of the Make-a-thon come up with, and will keep you posted as the project unfolds.

Until then, make sure to give thanks for the clean water with which you wash your hands, the warm water with which you bathe your face, and the place you dispose of your personal waste.  Ain't it grand not to have to think about it?

Learn more about the Make-a-thon here:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's really a Global Movement now

Recently I was contacted by a totally cool organization called, "Toilet Hackers".

They're based in New York City and have a mission of ending the global sanitation

*Ending* the global sanitation crisis.

This is so inspiring I can't stand it.  They have put together a team of people who are
moving heaven and earth to make it happen and beginning a revolution for like-minded
people to organize around this mission.

So exciting!!!

Cassandra (Jabola - my amazing co-producer) and I decided last week that it's time to
put the feelers out looking for collaborators to take our project to the next level both in
story-telling and production value.

We really believe this story deserves to be told and told well so if any of you readers
know of anyone who knows of anyone - filmmakers, funders, organizations or earth-and-
justice lovers - who might be interested in supporting this project through to the end,
please let me know.

We are gathering and grouping and beginning the next phase of fund-raising.....

Because come on.  SERIOUSLY!!!  Everyone deserves a safe place to put their body-
by-products.  Why not put those by-products to work restoring soil fertility and
agricultural yield and abating disease and starvation??

Let's do this.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I forgot to announce to everyone that our film was named a Semifinalist in the Focus Forward film festival!!!

This is a huge honor as we made the top 96 out of thousands of submissions from all around the world.  We could not be more thrilled and tomorrow, November 28, they will announce the top 20 films in the competition.

The judges have been reviewing and viewing and reviewing all the films and so we know that our film has been scrutinized and evaluated and are anxious to find out whether we will be moving into the final rounds of the competition, where the top 5 films will be given huge cash prizes and announced at no less than Sundance Film Festival.

Have you had a chance to vote for our film?  Audience voting is a completely separate category from the judge and the jury, but the 10 films which receive the most votes will be featured on the Focus Forward website and continue to receive such great exposure!!

You can vote for our film here:

If you are so compelled, please encourage your friends and family to vote for the film as well!!  And please don't hesitate to check out other films in the competition.  There are some absolutely breath-taking ideas being presented in these 96 films.  I am truly humbled to be among them.....

My love,
Jenny JUP

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Holy Crap! happenings

Greetings one and all on the eighth of November, 2012 and the first update on the Holy Crap! film project in over a year!!    

I am very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the year and a half since the 5-minute version of the film was released.  We created that version specifically for the Possible Futures Film Festival, and while we were disappointed when our project did not win an award, we learned a lot and were excited to be included among all the amazing films.  

But then, to our complete surprise, within a few weeks the film was broadcast on National Geographic on-line!  This was a great boon for the project and at the same time the film was accepted into two Film Festivals, the Tall-grass International Film Festival, and the Our-Stage Superstars on-line festival, where the film was named a finalist.  

The next boon to the project was when, over the summer, a wonderful editor and filmmaker named Jessica Jones contacted me to inquire about the film and we decided to work together to seek ways to develop it. We got started looking for grants, and in the end submitted a proposal to the Chicken and Egg Grant, a fund that supports women filmmakers who are passionate about story-telling, social justice and environmental and human rights.  We feel that this project is very well-qualified for the Chicken and Egg grant and are awaiting the announcement of winners on Wednesday, November 28.  Here’s hoping!! 

Soon after we submitted this grant another amazing woman, Cassandra Jabola, got in touch with me, as she had heard I was wanting to develop my film.  Cassandra brings a lot of experience in the area of distribution, development, and documentary narrative through her years working with National Geographic as an Associate Producer.  We could not be more thrilled to have her on-board.

The three of us set about to develop our first project together, and targeted making a submission to the Focus Forward on-line festival.  This is a contest that seeks 3-minute films about a wide-variety of topics from filmmakers around the world.  It is a very large festival with thousands of entries, and we were skeptical that our film would be noticed, as they already have a film about composting toilets!!  (“Toilet Man”).

But we felt that we really have a different angle on the topic, and decided to take the 5-minute piece that I made with editors Xuan Vu and Barbara Kadri last year, and see what we could do to make it into a stronger, shorter piece.  

The 3-minute restriction worked really well for the material that we had to work with, as we already had a pretty strong piece, and just shifted our focus, changed a few of the clips, and drove home the point that I’ve been wanting to make with this film ever since I first conceptualized it over 5 year’s ago:  could POOP be the answer to a lot of the world’s problems??

Unbelievable.  But poop is having a very positive impact throughout Haiti with SOIL ( and other organizations that are implementing safe techniques for transforming this substance into a very important material:  fertilizer.   

We want to tell their story and we want to tell the story of how other organizations are using this same substance in other parts of the world to reclaim a sustainable future for various communities.  And we want to begin an investigation into how we here in the U.S. could also benefit from water-less toilets.  Perhaps eco-san could become a global movement......

To our delight and surprise, in late October we were notified that the newly-revised version of Holy Crap! had made the first cut in the Focus Forward contest and was named a semi-finalist, bringing us one step closer to the possibility of being the recipient of the contest’s top prize, a $100,000 cash award.

The Focus Forward contest is set to go live on Wednesday November 14, so stay tuned, as there will be two components to the festival:  audience voting, and judge and jury voting.  The audience voting will be an opportunity for the film to be seen by a large audience, and we are so excited to get the feedback, input, and exposure from this!!   

In addition, the judges will be announcing the Finalists for the festival on Wednesday, November 28, and the top 5 winners will all be announced and awarded large cash prizes ($200,000 total!!) at none other than Sundance Film Festival!!

I can’t wait to show you the new and improved version of the film, and I can’t wait to see all the other films that made it to the Semi-finalist category!!  From what it looks like, they are going to blow my mind!!

So please stay tuned for upcoming updates to the project, and in the meantime, give thanks for the hidden infrastructure that can so easily be taken for granted....until the moment a hurricane wipes it out.....and we have to figure out what to do with all this sh*t.....