When you gotta go – to compost or flush seems a popular question on the farm. So what I’ve done is build a DIY composting toilet.
Years ago I read the Humanure Handbook by Joe Jenkins and was intrigued by it’s premise that you can easily and ecologically compost human waste. This was now our opportunity to join the (bowel) movement and yes, poop in a bucket.
Now some of you may think this is strange, disgusting business and altogether not a topic you are comfortable with. You may also believe that this is not hygienic but I can assure you that it’s not that way at all.
It’s all very clean and normal for something as natural as defecation.
It does however involve a little more labor than just pressing a lever to “flush and forget” everything away. But as this stage in the farm’s journey, we have no need right now for a full time septic system.
A free, low-tech composting toilet makes sense
And it’s actually pretty straight-forward.
If you’ve ever been camping in the woods, you’ve probably used an outhouse before. And depending on it’s condition, it might have been an unpleasant experience and a somewhat smelly affair.
With a DIY composting toilet and a by following some explicit directions, it is neither of these things. Plus it can save you a good bit of money on your start-up rural enterprise.
We will have to construct and build a septic system when we start our main house next Spring – but for now the DIY composting toilet is working out perfectly.
How does it work?
By using copious amounts of dry hay and sawdust between uses – you wouldn’t even know we had such a contraption in the glamping garage.
Composting for the Environment
Using water to transport our wastes seemed like an amazing invention in the 1600’s along with sewer systems later built for growing populations. Fast forward 100+ years and not much has changed. The issue I have is why are we still using fresh drinking water as the transport mechanism?
If you don’t put waste in water in the first place, then you don’t have to spend money to remove it at the back end. – Time
There are gray water (reused water from other fixtures) designs you can make use of as an alternative to composting – but this doesn’t really solve the root of the issue.
I’m not advocating that everyone start using a composting toilet – I’m just saying everyone should at least look into it.
Tips for your own composting toilet
First off, start with scrap wood and make sure it’s cheap or free. This will become the housing for your throne and it needn’t be too fancy or expensive.
Get two or three 5-gallon buckets from your nearest hardware store. Having the same size helps, so make sure they are all the same. I’ve noticed a few variations between manufacturers. You’ll be building the height and diameter of your composting toilet using fixed measurements.
Mr. Jenkins provides the complete instructions in building your own “luggable loo,” as he calls them. If you don’t want to build one, you can order a complete unit directly from his website.
For tiny houses, many folks also choose to use this same style of composting toilet. They are small and don’t take up much room.
Whether we like to deal with it or not, this is one of life’s universal truths and in a weird way represents the equality of all people.
On aside note, I’ve always loved the figure of “El Caganer” seen in Catalonian nativity scenes and throughout the culture. A composting toilet fits in very well with the philosophy behind this curious peasant character.