A Dive Into Living Machine

Theme: Living Machine

Living Machine is a system invented by Dr. John Todd and it is a living system that utilizes natural systems to clarify grey and sometimes black water from humans. A living machine highlights the ecosystem services held by the plants and microbes and a thriving ecosystem in a wetland. This is a classic example of biomimicry and how a wetland ecosystem handles storm surges often filled with organic waste and other organic materials. A living machine utilizes plants rhizomes and the close bacterial relationships that is holds to clarify organic sludge, absorbs nitrogen as well as sequesters carbon dioxide as a bonus service. Other species that are in these systems can include bacteria, algae, protozoa, plankton, snails to perform services as well as the wetland plants mentioned before. This type of science falls under the discipline of ecological engineering.  Compared to the traditional approach leaving toxic sludge as a byproduct a living machine greatly reduces the amount of that sludge byproduct. Another benefit of a living machine in comparison to the traditional approach is it also reduces the need for harmful chemicals which then could be released into natural systems. Another reason these are becoming increasingly more popular is the retrospect of recycling our nutrients that we dissipate.

Below is a link of an article written by Tafline Laylin from the journal The Ecologist:


A couple of examples of uses:

  • South Burlington, VT, USA
  • Findhorn Ecovillage, Moray, Scotland


Biomidigation, biomimicry,  Ecosystem services, Grey-water, Black-water


“Wastewater Technology Fact Sheet.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, www3.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/living_machine.pdf.

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