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Our take on the Composting Toilet - Our Small Footprint
 In How-to, Our life off grid, Sustainable Living, Tips and ideas

Humanure composting bucket toilet 101

Hello everyone Darryl here from Our Small Footprint.  Today we are going to look at the humanure toilet, it’s setup and usage, and all the experiences we have had with it so far. We will add in a link to a book on the subject.  We look forward to hearing from you all regarding your own thoughts and experiences with toilets and composting etc.

Construction

The construction for the toilet comes straight from the Humanure handbook. With, of course, our slap hazard devil may care signature added to it (I tend to be impatient by nature, and so sometimes rush things) As you can see we have used a sturdy ply, and my wife of course went for the rainbow toilet seat, because, why not? All of it was then heavily varnished to ensure no nasties have anywhere to breed.

Compostable Toilet Construction

Compostable Toilet Construction

There were a couple of false starts regarding getting the cutting of the wood right. Once we got there though we managed to get a serviceable hole cut out for the bucket.  Then it was simply a matter of attaching the hinges and the feet and we were ready to go.

The beauty of the humanure toilet is that it can be placed anywhere.  In fact, when we first moved, it was out in the open  We quickly had to find partitions to give everyone a bit of privacy. (no one was ok with the koalas laughing at us on the toilet). Now, of course, it is in the bathroom and the Koalas can no longer spy on us.

Boxy but good

I was personally amazed at how comfortable the toilet is.  When I saw the design my first thought was “Oh great a big box with a toilet lid, that’ll be comfy”.  However, it has been great to use and easy to clean.  Most importantly though, saves on our most precious commodity, water.

Compostable Toilet

Compostable Toilet

During the early days of the move we had no luck finding either pine shavings or straw, which are suggested in the design of this toilet to help break down waste into usable compost, so we started off with sand (there is a lot of sand here) and moved on to charcoal, until we eventually found a supplier for pine shavings (Still no straw though).

Sand was not the greatest.  We had a lot of problems with the moisture creating mud, which was yuk.  We quickly changed to charcoal which was much better, but ultimately not good enough.  Finding a supplier with pine shaving was a godsend. Since that point we have had no problems, pine shavings soak up everything and keep it odour free and pleasant smelling (If you like the smell of pine).  The only problems are those regarding children and their lack of care, which we are sure most people can relate to.

Building the pit

Building the Humanure Hacienda

Building the Humanure Hacienda

Next, we needed to build a poo pit (Humanure Hacienda).  We did not have a lot of spare timber, or any knowledge of how to make a gabled structure to use as a pit which was what we found used in a number of informational videos.   Most of the videos were American.  They seem to really like those sorts of roofs and arches on their gardens and surrounds. We ended up designing one with the materials at hand  Old pool fencing tied with that most useful tool the cable tie and lined with cardboard did the trick. This has worked quite well so far. The only drawback has been the lack of straw, which has made it harder to keep nasties out.

We have used more pine shavings on the pile periodically to keep bugs from breeding in the pile. Unfortunately, the continuing droughts in this part of Australia make hay, straw and the like scarce and expensive. The pine shavings do the job though, it just comes down to paying attention to the pile and using the shavings as required.

Clean up aisle 3

Emptying and cleaning the buckets has been a fun experience, and strangely one that no one else seems to wish to share with me, however, this is not a problem, dumping and cleaning is easy. We use a bit of vinegar and water to scrub out the buckets, give them a final rinse and a good dose of sunlight to make sure no baddies linger, and they go back into circulation.

Once we have filled the first side we will swap to the second side, and within twelve months we will have viable compost to use to improve the quality of the soil here.  Our Urban Composter unit which uses the bokashi method has been working well and we are digging compost trenches to discard the fermented waste.  Our intent is to plant into these in the next growing season.

Urban Bokashi Composting system

Urban Bokashi Composting system

It will take a few years, but our goal is to improve the soil and reduce our food waste.  We may never be Zero Waste but we aim to get as close as possible.  Sunflowers and pest repelling ground covers are part of the next phase of the plan. We will also expand our greenhouses and chicken pens.

Thanks for reading!  We hope you will continue to take this journey with us and once again we look forward to all comments, advice, and suggestions.

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