Tag Archives: Joseph Jenkins

Compost Sanitation in Post Earthquake Haiti

Compost Sanitation in Post Earthquake Haiti

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…

 

Humanure Handbook review

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.

[It lives in my basement next to the washing machine, not outside! I just wanted to get a good picture.]

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.

Holy Crap! My Very Own Compost Toilet.

After nearly a month of simply having a 5 gallon bucket and some sawdust, I finally built my own proper compost toilet!

It cost me a total of about $20 and two hours of work to get it done…well worth it.  This lives in my basement, but I brought it outside to snap a well-lit photo in front of its “sewer system” (the compost pile).

I simply followed the instructions in Joseph Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook …I strongly suggest picking this up.  Even if you have no interest in humanure composting, it’s still a very critical read for learning the history of human waste and how we’ve broken the human nutrient cycle.

For the fecophobes out there: read about thermal kill times and how compost has been used to fully bioremediate contaminated lands of compounds as harsh as TNT.  I’m not worried about pathogens.  My pile is going to be actively added to for about a year.  Then I’m going to let it sit for a year while I build a second one for a year.

Therefore, my compost pile breaks down and cures for a span of two years.  This is plenty of time for nature to do what it has done for zillions of years.

Anyway, more updates to come.  This has been really fun and I have had some serious reflections thus far on the process and its benefits to the Earth.

Adding Humanure Compost to A Garden (video)

Adding Humanure Compost to A Garden

Jenkins adds material to one compost bin for a year, then switches to the second bin for year two.  At the end of year two, the contents of the first bin are ready to use for gardening.  Pathogens are not present.

It’s pretty awesome that he’s been doing this for 30+ years with no issues at all…safe to say he knows what he’s talking about!

Humanure Compost Toilets at a Music Festival

Humanure Compost Toilets at a Music Festival

The commentary on this one is unanimous: Compost toilets worked wonderfully, even at a 500 person music festival.  I wonder what to do when you have a festival somewhere that doesn’t have a spot for a compost pile nearby…perhaps a pile that stays on a flatbed?

Compost toilets don’t smell.  Use sawdust.  It masks the smell best, and it smells good as it is.

Compost toilets don’t use nasty chemicals like what is found in your typical porta-potty.

There’s little to no bugs.  After several days of using porta-potties, the smell and amount of bugs is pretty nasty.

This video was five years ago…I wonder how many other events have taken on this system… if this doesn’t sell you on how great humanure composting is, I don’t know what will.

Compost Toilet System (video)

Compost Toilet System

In the spirit of humanure composting, I started looking at other videos on Youtube besides those created by the master Joseph Jenkins to see what’s happening.

After reading Humanure Handbook twice, it was interesting to see this system in place and wonder where they adapted it from.

My main question is simply why they go to all the trouble of having dozens of buckets sitting around with small quantities of material in them when they could just build two 5’x5’x5′ compost bins and do it that way instead.  Either way, composting is composting and it’s great to see this going on.

Also, regarding their compost toilet, she mentions the only odors being from when there’s too much urine…this can simply be solved by adding more cover materials.

I started humanure composting recently, and my main challenge has simply been collecting enough cover materials (sawdust, specifically).  Once I can get a good sawdust hookup, I can finally devote myself entirely instead of every once in a while.  Unless you have a good supply of cover materials, the process will not work.

I’ve even started feeling funny when I use the toilet now… I’ve been viewing each dump as an opportunity lost, so I know I’m hooked!  After only adding one 5 gallon bucket’s worth of humanure to my compost pile, the temperature shot up to just shy of 130 degrees within a few days and stayed there, which is simply awesome.

By the way, if you haven’t read Humanure Handbook it will truly throw your head for a spin, which is always needed.  The first chapter is super heavy and a great reality check, and the best is how thoroughly researched it is to back it up.  It’s right up there with Rubbish! as being my all-time favorite book for sure.  I guess I should write a full-on book review to really hit it home how essential this book is…

Ecological Sanitation in Haiti, by GiveLove.org, 2010 and 2011

Ecological Sanitation in Haiti, by GiveLove.org, 2010 and 2011

This video is a beautiful demo of how sanitation needs to be handled.  One 3’x6′ bin a month for 1,000+ people?

Think about that- no water contamination, no need to exert any kind of energy other than collecting your woodchips, carry the buckets and adding them to the compost pile.

This is the future.

Starting a New Humanure Compost Pile (video)

Starting a New Humanure Compost Pile

Watching this video makes me wish I lived outside the city with a bit more space!  The creator of this video is the founder of The Humanure Handbook, which is a classic guide on creating great compost from human manure.  If you haven’t read this, I strongly suggest checking it out even if you don’t plan on building a system.  His observations and insights are great, such as calling the human race a disease on page 1… dude’s spot on.