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But that mountain of human manure can be a veritable gold mine of renewable energy. Biogas can be harvested from such waste, and this can be used to power and heat homes - and even do the cooking. And it's the kitchens of Bahama's Eleuthra Island School that are one of the most recent beneficiaries of this full-circle thinking. The campus has just received its first biogas stove, donated by Cape Eleuthera Institute, an ecological research organisation.
The Institute is dedicated to developing ecologically-sensitive self-sufficiency solutions. Human waste disposal has been an environmental concern on the long slither of island paradise that is Eleuthera. Cesspit contents are often stored in underground dumps, where there is a risk of leaching into the island's precarious freshwater reserves. But biogas production - which happens in sealed anaerobic biodigester units - transforms this disposal headache into both a useful energy sources, and a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
With organic fertilizer one resource that is often scarce on small islands, the biogas generation unit on the Island School can add another green feather to it's cap. By displacing expensive imported inorganic fertilizers, nitrate pollution can be reduced, and the islands nutrient-poor soils enriched - all from a low-cost indigenous source. It also helps make Eleuthera more self-sufficient.
As Island School's head Chris Maxey told The Bahamas Weekly: “Now we will literally be taking human waste and processing it into a safe and inexpensive form of energy that we can use to cook our food. And, we will be doing it all on-site, on our campus. What is more energy-independent than that?”