Off-Grid Composting Toilets and the Benefits of Humanure!
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”!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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