Hi everyone, we have been home for over three weeks, adjusting quite well, feeling happy to be near friends and family and very busy with the work on the farm.
There is so much going on I had no idea how to begin. So why not make this about something most people won’t talk about but do all the time, relating to one new addition to our new abode that we are very excited about – our new compost toilet!
The reasons to use a compost toilet as opposed to a flush toilet are numerous. Obviously, it saves precious water and recycles waste into fertilizer. It also saves you money and doesn’t require complicated plumbing work. And, you will never have to plunge a toilet ever again. Need I say more?
On the other hand, the downside to a compost toilet really boils down to – the ICK factor, FEAR, WILL IT SMELL?
While there are many ways to build a compost toilet – some of them are really cool – for now we had neither the money nor the time. So we settled on the simplest DIY style. Essentially it is one 5-gallon bucket. A concept and design that is so simple, we were very skeptical if it would actually work.
Here is our toilet.
After using this for a month, what is our verdict?
It is freaking awesome. Really. I don’t know how to explain it scientifically, but I am still surprised that even when the bucket is full, it does not smell! The key is to cover well. We start the bucket by throwing in a few inches of wood shavings to line the bottom. Then after each use, we sprinkle with another thin layer. Once everything is covered, the shit doesn’t stink.
The trickiest part of the 5 gallon bucket approach is having to empty it. When the bucket is full, we gotta walk it over to the compost bin.
I have to admit, the first time I had to empty the bucket, I was worried. I mean, it is a 5 gallon bucket of poop. But as it turns out, the wood shavings really does its job so that the overturned “contents” looks just like a big pile of wet wood shavings with some toilet paper. Well, I totally understand the conventional taboo about compost toilets and I thought long and hard about whether this next photo should be posted to the public. But the bottom line is, I wouldn’t be doing this subject justice if I sidestepped this part, so here it is….. See, not bad at all! And by the way, no smell.
We then add whatever else compost material is around that day. This time we had lots of shredded paper and moldy bread…
Then, cover up the pile with more organic material like mulch, leaves or straw. There is absolutely zero smell while standing next to the compost bin.
This compost bin will take 6 months to a year to fill to capacity, because composting will keep shrinking down the material. When it gets full, we will simply let it sit undisturbed for a year. The process of composting and curing will eliminate pathogens and recycle our waste into sanitary organic fertilizer ready for the garden. It is not gross, not dangerous. If you think about it, it is a pretty amazing cycle of nature.
If you are interested, the Humanure Handbook is the absolute authority on this topic. Their website has everything you need to know about composting humanure and how to build your very own bucket compost toilet.
NERD ALERT: Modern toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, as mandated by the government since the 90s. On the market are also high efficiency toilets that use as little as 1.28 gallons. But if you have an older toilet, it can use anywhere from 3 to 7 gallons. Let’s be optimistic and assume we all have new toilets so we use an average 1.44 gallons per flush. If one uses the loo 5 times a day, that is 7 gallons of clean potable water flushed down the drain each day. Per month that is 216 gallons and per year that is 2,600 gallons of clean water. For reference, that is like filling 75 bathtubs. Again, that is just for one person! I can certainly think of other things we can do with this perfectly clean water.