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Off-Grid Composting Toilets and the Benefits of Humanure!

off-grid-toilets

According to “State of the World 1999” every time we flush the toilet we launch 5 or 6 gallons of polluted water out into the world, that's 4.8 billion gallons of fresh water polluted by waste and then treated with harmful chemicals everyday in America alone. Whether you choose an off-grid toilet, an outhouse or a composting toilet, composting your waste is the smart thing to do. Not only does it save the planet from pollution and helps to grow healthy gardens and rich soil but it also solves the problem of what to do with your waste when going “off-grid”!

off-grid-toilets

Off-grid toilets


The one area that must be addressed when going off-grid is what to do with YOUR waste and I'm not talking about potato peelings here!

What exactly is an off-grid toilet?

If you want to go off-grid that means there will be no sewer, so what is a spoiled American who has hardly even spent a night camping ...to do? Well, I'll tell ya. I have really looked into this and have read about it in-depth and the best thing that you and I can do is to start composting our waste in an off-grid toilet! Yeah, you heard me right humanure is the way to go. What is HUMANURE you say?! It's just what it sounds like human manure. The excrement (man I really hate that word) that comes out of our bodies is now polluting the earth at record rates. Not only that, but we are using entirely too much fresh water to get rid of it. And, we never really do get rid of it, it goes into our rivers, oceans and we douse it with chemicals and none of it is good for your or me or the planet.


Moreover, human waste or humanure can be used to make compost which in turn can help you grow your garden and improve your soil. It really is a valuable commodity..really..it is, trust me! So how does one go about composting their human waste, using an off-grid toilet without getting totally grossed out in the process?



To humanure or to not humanure that is the question!

First of all, composting human waste is a very simple process. A lot of people think that a compost pile is just a pile of s**t in their backyard. That is NOT what composting is. According to “The Humanure Handbook” you need 4 ingredients to compost. They are: Moisture, Oxygen, Temperature and a Balanced Diet or Manure.

What about the smell?

The very first thing you need to do in order to start an off-grid composting is a bin. You can either build a bin or buy a bin but the most important thing to consider is that the bin has to allow oxygen to flow through it. Many people prefer wooden bins with slats so that the air can flow through and also so that moisture can get to it as well. Next you'll want to make sure that there is dirt on the bottom of the bin. The next thing you put into it is excrement, either yours or your animals or preferably both. After that you will want to add weeds, grass clippings, food waste like egg shells and potato peelings (really anything that rots can go into it) and then finally on top of it all you should put hay or straw. The hay or straw is very important because it will keep your compost from smelling and will also keep the flies away. Finally, you must make sure that the compost gets enough moisture. If it doesn't rain enough you will have to wet it down now and again. And that's it. You can add and should add to your compost pile every day or week or whenever but always make sure that you cover it with hay or straw and it will be fine. If you follow these directions you will have a usable compost within a year. It is advised to wait at least one year and some say even two before using the compost in your garden. It takes time for the organisms to do their work so some people actually have more than one compost pile going at a time.



Should Compost Be Turned?

You do not have to turn your compost pile. In fact for a household compost Joseph Jenkins who wrote the Humanure Handbook recommends NOT turning the pile ever. He says as long as you are adding to the pile it should be fine. Also, some people put chicken wire over the top so that the hay doesn't fly away in windy weather. But, other than that, that is it.



off-grid-toilets

Save Money By Building Your Own Toilet!

Now, you can build your own off-grid toilet, which is really just a bucket underneath a box with a toilet seat on it and this of course would be the most economical choice or you can buy a composting toilet which will cost a whole lot more (around $2,000-$5,000) but is a bit nicer to look at. Composting toilets actually compost the deposits in the toilet. The Biolet Composting Toilet is the best off-grid toilet and the most common. They have models that can be used either with or without electricity. The humus has to be removed a couple of times a year (in their largest unit it only has to be removed once a year), but that would be a whole lot easier on the senses than emptying out a bucket! However, like I already mentioned composting toilets are a lot more expensive than building your own off-grid toilet, outhouse or in-house facilities. Lovable Loo's are off-grid toilet's that sell for about $250 (a lot cheaper than composting toilets!). You can purchase one or you can build your own. In any case you would save a great deal of money with this type of toilet.


off-grid-toilets

Portable/Moveable

Not only are the Lovable Loo toilets economical but they are also practical. You don't need water or electricity so you can put one anywhere. If you have a cabin in the woods you can put one there, if you want a toilet near your barn so you don't have to run inside you can put one there, if you have a spare bedroom you can put one there. Unlike flush toilets that have to be hooked up to water these off-grid toilets can go anywhere! Everyone in your family could potentially have there own toilet!


off-grid-toilets

A win/win scenario!

Composting waste just makes economical sense. Not only do you save water but you also gain valuable fertilizer for your crops, trees or flowers. The precious fresh water is preserved, fertilizer is created and you don't have to install an expensive sewage system in your home, it's a win/win scenario! Whatever method you decide to implement, one thing is certain. The world is running out of fresh water. The practice of flushing our waste into fresh water is utterly ridiculous and unnecessary. So whether you decide to go off the grid or not I hope that you will consider making this change to your lifestyle, if not for the sake of others, for your own sake.

off-grid-toilets

Additional Articles by Brie Hoffman

I like this because it's rounded and not square.

Comments

Rick on July 06, 2017:

You don't have to go off-grid or compost your waste to conserve fresh water. In the USA all humane wast is composted. It is animal waste that should be the concern. 80 billion animals we raise for food produce 58 tons of waste per second that is flushed into the environment untreated. If you want to protect clean water, stop eating meat. To produce one pound of beef consumes 2500 gallons of fresh water. If you don't want to deficate in fresh water then if its yellow let mellow. Don't flush urine just flush excecrement. You will turn your toilet into a low flush toilet and it won't cost you a dime.

Jen on January 09, 2016:

I'm curious about the effects of "humanure" as fertilizer in food gardens and the potential for parasites, viruses, etc. I know there have been issues with food born illness due to unsanitary conditions in the fields (workers going to the bathroom in them) is there a length of time necessary for the composting process to ensure all communicable diseases are dead before the product is used in food production or should the product be limited to non-edible gardens?

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on March 02, 2012:

Great, Ohgreenworld, it will be one the cheaper projects you can implement!

ohgreenworld from Seattle, WA on March 02, 2012:

One day, its on the project list for my home!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on April 19, 2011:

Let me know how it turns out...thanks.

royblizzard from Austin / Leander, Texas on April 18, 2011:

I like this Biolet. When we get out in the country I'll have to get one. Thanks for the info!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on March 30, 2011:

Thanks RunAbstract...I live in a high rise in Manhattan with no outdoor space, so it's just not possible at the time...but someday I will have one. It is funny how you can be so passionate about something that others are completely clueless about. Thanks for the vote up, I need all the help I can get with this topic!

RunAbstract from USA on March 30, 2011:

Yeah, even though you have no composting toilet, kudos for the info and push up about composting toilets!

I have been a composting toilet user off and on for years, and have a hard time getting people to understand the very real benefits of this process. So I'm all for anyone promoting the concept! And I appreciate the fact that you researched and wrote on this subject!

Also you point readers in the direction of the Humanure Handbook, which is great! The author writes with wonderful knowledge and great humor! A must read for EVERYBODY in my humble opinion.

Voted up! And thanks!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 05, 2011:

Thanks Thoughtforce, I really never thought about it until I got into this off-grid stuff and now I am very excited about it.

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on February 05, 2011:

This hub is so good! We all know, when we think about it, that to use the precious freshwater to flush away human waste isn’t the right way to handle the resources on Earth! Thanks for making it so "appealing"! Voted UP!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 04, 2011:

I'm working on em! Thanks for commenting; please vote it up if you like it!

Phyllis on February 04, 2011:

Great idea. Keep em coming.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 04, 2011:

Thanks, DellNixon

DellNixon on February 04, 2011:

Interesting, nice hub. Enjoyed reading it.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 03, 2011:

Thanks Amy.

amybradley77 on February 03, 2011:

There are many more of these bathrooms still being used than most people think, it's getting to be something coming back to us more again some how. Thanks for this page very interesting stuff, I think. Voted up, and useful. A.B.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 02, 2011:

Thanks Mazzastick, I love hearing from people like you.

mazzastick on February 02, 2011:

I began transitioning off the grid about three years ago when we moved to the country. I implemented a vegetable garden, compost almost everything, and split and burn firewood for heat. Maybe invest in some solar panels next.

Already working on building an outhouse this spring. Great Article...

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 01, 2011:

I have no garden space at all and the roof is occupied by the penthouse owners.

mdhafrica from Chad, Africa on February 01, 2011:

Brie, even in Manhattan you could 'do' and not just contemplate. If you have a garden space, say on the roof, you could make a compost pile. I can tell you that I live in an urban area and I have a composting toilet in my bedroom and I have guests coming to visit my garden compost pile and they are always taken aback by the fact that neither the toilet nor the compost pile have any "stink".

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 01, 2011:

How exciting for you! Let me know how it goes.

sir slave from Trinity county CA. on February 01, 2011:

Thank you for the research, Ill probably have to buy one or two of them as I live in the boonies and am developing land.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 01, 2011:

I have never said that I do this...I live in Manhattan so for now, all my off-grid hubs are research. I think that in order to do something like this it's better to go into it well informed, don't you?

mdhafrica from Chad, Africa on February 01, 2011:

Brie, while the hub was very interesting, I detect that this is still just research to you, not something you yet do. Some of the details in your writing were slightly inaccurate as a regular user of a composting bucket toilet and maker of compost would know. But, still very well written and a good prompter to seek more info and even trying it.

Keep on writing good hubs!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 01, 2011:

Thanks Micky Dee and Angie. I didn't know either and really its so exciting to find useful information like this that not only helps the planet but also benefits each of us as well.

Thanks for commenting, I hope your rated it up so that the word can spread.

Angie Mitchell on February 01, 2011:

I found your hub via Redgage... Good job! I never knew you could use human waste as compost! Who knew???

Thank you for shedding some light Brie :)

Micky Dee on February 01, 2011:

Great write Brie. I have a friend who has built several homes and all will have an outhouse, two seaters. One is always "cooking" while one is in use. He did install one "cooker" inside his home though. Beautiful write. Thank you very much!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 01, 2011:

Thanks Shona

Shona Venter from South Africa on February 01, 2011:

Great hub, Brie. Very informative as well. A lot of people will only wake up when there is no water left on earth. By making small changes like these now, they can go a long way in helping to alleviate that problem.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 31, 2011:

Aren't the videos great! They help a lot I think. Good luck with your venture.

rpalulis from NY on January 31, 2011:

This is one area that I have been wanting to know more about, as I start building my little house on wheels this summer, there are two things on my list to still research, off the gird toilets and solar panels. Thanks, very informative. Great videos

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 31, 2011:

Thank You for your support and comments. I'm glad you like it. Who knew that ehem...waste could be so interesting!

blackreign2012 on January 31, 2011:

Another great informative hub ty soo brie for sharing your knowledge with the hub :-)

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 31, 2011:

Thanks guys!

Radioguy from Maine on January 31, 2011:

Good Job! My neighbor gets great "composted" tomatoes.

Aaron Rushing from USA- Florida on January 30, 2011:

Well done Brie very informative. If I ever need to go off grid I will now what to do with my ummmmm? Nanure LOL!

ABR