e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Sharon Moran

A septic drain field being installed shortly after construction.

Research Highlights

Wasteful cultivation: Dirty water and its discontents

The pastoral aesthetic of the American lawn has no place for human wastes - or does it?

My research on septic system issues seeks to document ways that this humble technology mediates our relationship with nature. Unacknowledged and yet omnipresent, this subterranean device inhabits a contradictory position in our exurban landscape. Its hidden participation in the backyards of private homes silently facilitates -- yet outwardly denies -- our continued engagement in the water cycle.

However, a growing array of alternative practices -- including composting toilets and greywater systems -- are being embraced by individuals choosing to intervene in their local ecology in an active and participatory manner. Through interviews and participant observation, this research examines the role of culture in shaping our understandings of nature, using on-site wastewater disposal as a case study.

  • Dimpfl, Mike and Sharon Moran. 2014. Waste matters: Compost, domestic practice, and the transformation of alternative toilet cultures around Skaneateles, NY, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32: 721-738.
  • Dimpfl, Mike and Sharon Moran. 2011. "Composting toilet," in Green Technology: An A-Z Guide, eds. Paul Robbins and Dustin Mulvaney. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.
  • Moran, S. 2008. Under the Lawn: Engaging the Water Cycle, Ethics, Place, and Environment, 11(2): 129-145.

Nahar, Sarah and Sharon Moran (forthcoming) 'Support and Strengthen the Participation of Local Communities in Improving Water and Sanitation Management' in Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Filho, Walter Leal et al., eds.