It’s always exciting to see a new compost toilet video online… I’m not alone!
It really is simple- just read Humanure Handbook by Joe Jenkins a few times and get to it. It’s a great read and he knows what he’s doing…he backs the whole book with a ton of cited research.
The only area I differ from their process is that I also add my cat’s waste to the system, too.
Jenkins doesn’t make a strong claim in his book about composting pet waste- I’m willing to take the risk. I use swheat scoop cat litter and just add it to my compost toilet buckets along with my own deposits.
I let the pile sit for 18 months (instead of 12) and use the finished compost for solely horticultural purposes.
If you don’t have the time or interest to build your own, this new design is built like a tank!
I put my shredder to use and converted 3 bags of leaves into one full, dense bag of shredded brown fuel.
I added a bunch of leftovers, the compost toilet bucket, weeds I picked from the side yard, and cat food that the picky guy doesn’t want to eat anymore.
On a side note, my cat seems to only want the cheap processed crap. I tried feeding him some super good stuff with real meat in it, and he doesn’t want it!
Anyway, it makes great fuel. My pile has been at or above 131 F for a few days now. Yay!
According to Jenkins, Gotaas, and numerous others, complete pathogen destruction takes place in a well-managed compost pile arriving at the temperature of 62 C (144 F) for one hour, 50 C (122 F) for one day, 46 C (115 F) for one week or 43 C (109.4 F) for one month.
To achieve these temperatures, all you need is at least a 3′ x 3′ x 3′ compost bin with well-shredded leaves and food scraps. Emptying your compost toilet in there will guarantee these temperatures.
As with anything it takes practice, but once you do it once, you’ll keep nailing it. And it feels pretty good. 🙂
We just had a quick snowstorm and it’s going down to 7F tonight… the pile is hanging in there just above 90F. It’s cool how the pile is melting the snow off the top. I feel like I could do a better job insulating the thing… this weekend’s deposit will hopefully keep the pile going.
Every time I open the tarp I worry that I’m going to lose all the heat, so I work as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. I want to take a picture of the steam barreling off of it next time.
Would be nice to stay warm in there… well, maybe not!
Here’s my compost toilet bucket, part 1 of the weekly ritual. After dumping it into my bin, I then dump in my weekly kitchen scraps. Since it’s below freezing, I have to bring out a bucket of water from inside to rinse out the two containers.
After dumping the rinse water into the pile, I cover up the contents with the layer of leaves and finally the tarp. Maybe I should make a video of the whole process?
Joe’s on fire for this presentation… I wonder if it’s because it’s for the U.S. Composting Council, and my guess is he has to be sharp for those folks.
I wonder how supportive the U.S. Composting Council is of the best composting process you can be involved with…would be fun to write them about it (just did).
I wish I had the cover materials available that they do in Haiti… tons and tons of sugar cane bagasse.
He has 15 gallon buckets in use here, with the front of the compost toilet open. I fill my 5 gallon bucket pretty quickly and would love to try a 15 gallon. I guess the front is open so you don’t have to pick it up as high…might be pretty heavy to move.
I just want more people to see how great this process is, and hope to get more people doing it. It’s too easy and too beneficial to ignore.
Gotta go, just saw my neighbors putting leaf bags out to the curb…
On late Sunday afternoon, I went outside my house and found several bags of leaves at the curbside. I got really excited and stashed four massive bags in my backyard, in addition to the two that I shredded up and added to my compost pile.
I was getting concerned about the compost pile, as it was starting to fall out of the Steady range around 80 degrees. Then I realized that it had been awhile since I added anything to it, so I contributed a hefty top layer of shredded leaves for insulation. I need to go looking for straw, too.
In a little over 24 hours, just two bags’ worth of shredded leaves, a bucket from the compost toilet and a week’s worth of kitchen scraps revived the pile back up to just shy of 140 degrees!
I was a bit surprised, I didn’t think it would be that drastic of a change…but with a light rain over night and a warm day yesterday it was the perfect mix to rejuvenate the pile.
So remember, collect all the leaves you can, shred them and add them. See if you can keep your compost cooking all winter long!
Even if you don’t make it all winter, you can be sure that when the temperatures start to climb again, it will start cooking again like nothing happened.
If there was any book I’d recommend, even to someone that generally isn’t interested in environmental issues, it’s Humanure Handbook. I can confidently say this book is at the level of Silent Spring.
How could a book about composting your bowel movements be important?
Urine, feces and food scraps are super high in nitrogen. Leaves, cardboard, paper, straw, hay etc are all high in carbon. When you mix these two components together, in time you get beautiful, fertile compost that our earth desperately needs.
What you don’t get is chlorine and sodium hypochlorite (amongst other things used in water treatment process), and polluted air from burning off sewage sludge, or possibly worse having that sewage sludge spread on farmlands as a “soil amendment”.
Jenkins goes into great detail about the history of feces around the world, from how 78,000 tons of humanure was bought for $31,000 gold in China, to how it has become a problem that seemingly no one wants to address.
Defecating in our water isn’t good. Even myself, spending most waking hours reading about environmental issues in one way or another, sees how this doesn’t register as a huge problem at first observation.
We flush the toilet and it goes away, just like our trash gets picked up at the curb and disappears.
We don’t notice what we breathe in, we don’t taste toxins. Jenkins can get pretty grim at times (especially in the beginning) but I can’t argue with him whatsoever.
His solution is utilizing a compost toilet paired with a compost pile and a rain barrel, (for cleaning). It goes without saying he’s an advocate of curbside compost collection as well.
I went along with his easy-to-follow instructions for building a “lovable loo” and needless to say I am very impressed. It took me a couple hours to construct the toilet, and I love it. The sawdust created from constructing it was the first addition to the bucket.
I go through a 5 gallon bucket a week, and I have to make a trip to a local woodshop every few months to pick up my sawdust supply, which is a mutual benefit for sure.
I have a 3′ x 3′ x 3′ compost pile in the yard that is always cooking at a higher temperature than I ever got without the humanure additions. No matter how much material I dump in per week, the pile seems to stay the same size!
This is the magic of humanure composting. Jenkins states to fill one compost bin for a year, then switch to a brand new pile for a year. Once the second pile fills up after a year, empty the first one, which will be nothing but beautiful compost.
It’s not all perfect, though. I’d say the trickiest part of the process, which I don’t recall being mentioned at great length in the book (time to read it a third time), is the dust issue.
Using fine sawdust can be a bit…dusty, of course. I found that adding a spray bottle into the mix worked decently, but it is a bit too laborious. I want to spend my time on the can reading a book, not spraying down sawdust. Therefore, I just sprinkle the whole bucket’s worth of sawdust with some rainwater from my watering can. Much, much better.
The way Jenkins does it, which I can’t really abide by due to space constraints, is to have a huge pile of sawdust outside next to the compost pile. If it got naturally rained on from time to time, it would be much cleaner to work with since it would absorb plenty of moisture.
However, I’m a bit paranoid with having such a large flammable source exposed in the yard, which is yet another benefit to putting a tarp on the compost pile. I’ve had people throw cigarette butts over the fence into the yard… so yeah. One of those times I wish I lived in the sticks, like Jenkins.
All in all, the process takes about 10 minutes a week to complete, and I find it to be time well spent. Every time I empty my toilet, I find myself thinking about what the hell I’m doing, but in a good way. It puts pressure on me to consume less and less plastic materials, because other than that, most everything is recyclable or compostable.
If you’re really into the survival/prepper mentality, this skill is a no-brainer. If we had an extended grid-down situation or lost access to water, a compost toilet would be critically important and I’m proud to have one.
The book ends with a great interview of Jenkins…by Jenkins. It really takes all the typical questions asked and makes it look like naive, old thinking. I won’t ruin it, you’ll have to pick up the book to enjoy it for yourself.
I’ll say it again- if you’re into environmental issues and want to learn about one of the most critical topics not being discussed, the Humanure Handbook will make you question your lifestyle at length while being an enjoyable read at the same time.