Toilets for a resilient lifestyle

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pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Toilets for a resilient lifestyle

Hi all!  I'd like to start a thread to discuss sustainable toilet solution.  Right now, many of us are dependent on public water and sewage systems for handling human waste, and that doesn't strike me as a good place to be when trying to design a more resilient way of life.

For my part, I am interested in learning about a fairly self-contained toilet that is not dependent on indoor plumbing, nor electricity if possible.  My particular situation is that I am looking for a sustainable toilet for a camp.  The land under the camp is almost all rock, which makes a septic system (or an out-house, for that matter) out of the question.  But I am also interested in this topic from a prepping perspective for my home. 

When I first looked into "environmentally friendly" toilet options a year or two ago, I read reviews about various 'sustainable toilets" (composting toilets, etc.) that sounded potentially smelly or messy or otherwise problematic.  So getting something that is reliable, not smelly and not messy would be the ideal I'm shooting for.  I don't mind doing occassional clean-out as long as it doesn't induce the gag reflex :), and as long as the weight of whatever has to be cleaned out isn't too heavy for a woman. 

One type of toilet that got my interest -I think Damnthematrix introduced me to them on a blog entry here some time ago- is a urine separating toilet  http://www.sustainable-solutions.info/blog/?p=276 .  Some articles call them "no mix" toilets.  Such toilets collect the urine in a hole(s) in the front into one tank, and the feces in a hole in the back in another/separate chamber.  The claim is that since the urine is not contaminated by feces, it can be collected and safely used as fertilizer.  The feces supposedly dry out and break down separately in their chamber, and composting takes place later after the chamber is removed (add dirt, let it sit for 6 months)..  Supposedly the feces chamber only has to be dumped out every 3 weeks to couple of months, depending on the number of people using, etc.  So it sounds like this may be a promising solution.

Right now, I've only found info on 3 kinds, the Separett Composting Toilet http://www.sustainable-solutions.info/Separett% , Nature's Head Composting Toilet http://sustainable-solutions.info/Index.htm , and the Naturum http://www.biolan.fi/english/default4.asp?active_page_id=1096.  Damnthematrix, if you read this, I think you also knew of another type; feel free to jump in with it!

Here are a couple of other links I found on these and other "sustainable toilet solutions" looking for info:

http://www.technewsdaily.com/220-4-out-of-5-like-toilet-that-separates-no-1-from-no-2-.html

http://www.popsci.com/content/redesigning-toilet-produce-water-fertilizer-and-energy

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120626072942.htm

Does anyone else knows anything about these or other good "sustainable toilet" solutions from personal experience, please jump in as well! 

mark_visconty's picture
mark_visconty
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Denny Johnson's picture
Denny Johnson
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Humanure

Perhaps outside your criteria, but the Humanure system may be worth considering:

http://humanurehandbook.com/

http://humanurehandbook.com/manual.html

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pinecarr
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Thanks Mark and Denny

Thanks Mark and Denny for the good links!  Mark, I'd never heard of the Air Head composting toilet before, but it seems along the lines of the kind of thing I am looking for.  I just wish it was less expensive (just shy of $1,000).  But I think some of the others may also be in that same range as well.

Denny, great links, thanks!  The info you sent was definitely within the criteria of the larger scope of the thread I started.  The criteria for my situation may be somewhat narrower, but I really am interested in getting folks to share info on the larger scope of eco-friendly toilets that support a more resilient, sustainable lifestyle.

I also think the Loveable Loo may have been the toilet that DamntheMatrix had written about.  

The humanure site you sent the link to was rich in information.  They had one section alone on "Humanure Toilets" at http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/messages/ .  I started purusing it, but will need more time. Thanks!

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David Huang
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humanure toilet

For what it's worth, I can report that I've been using the sawdust composting toilet described in Jenkins "Humanure Handbook" for years now.  It has been working fine for me, greatly reducing my water use, and since I'm on a well with an electric well pump it's reduced my electric use a fair amount too.

Boiled down to it's essence, you do your business in a 5 gallon bucket, cover it with sawdust, and empty the bucket into a compost pile when full.  While I'm happy with it I've been thinking that it's only sustainable with a ready supply of cheap sawdust.  Hence, it's not really sustainable since it's relying on sawmills staying busy.  Also if it became commonly used by people there would quickly be a shortage of sawdust.  So really as I'm doing it it's a system utilizing the waste of industrial society.  That's not such a bad thing, but not really sustainable beyond industrial society.  Still I think there may well be a way to adjust the basic idea of this system to make it more truly sustainable.

I'll have to check out some of the other things posted here too.

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The Best Low Cost Design I've heard of...

Now, I've studied this for years and wish I would have saved my money. We bought a Centrex composting toilet, a Nature's Head and others as we build new bathrooms and refuse to go with a conventional septic system.

The best (and low cost) design I heard of uses a wood box with a metal container to "deposit" into. Make the box big enough to hold the metal pail you find and confortable enough to sit on. Then as needed, pull out the metal container and you can either start a fire under it so it burns down to nearly nothing, or if the contents are dry, burn inside the metal pail. Having 2 metal pails would mean no rush to burn between uses.

What's great about the Box-n-Metal Pail System is if people are medications, then the contents get burned before going into the ground. The other benefit is the toilet is portable and might be used if someone has a medical need and needs a toilet close by. Yes, that CAN happen!

Now, having tested nearly all the composting systems on the market, I can say with confidence I don't care much for any of them other than the one above. The best toilet system I ever heard of and want to replace our systems with one day is - a digester from human waste system. After all, why not re-purpose Poo!

The person I talked to said that if you can collect the waste in a tank and siphon off the gases, you have some small fuel source. In China, they use this fuel source as a central digester and it provides some fuel, almost enough to cook a meal a day.

Now for the real controversial topic.....What to use for toilet paper??

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pinecarr
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You use...

You use toilet paper?! cheeky

Great info, David and EGP, thanks for sharing your insights and experiences. 

The extent of my experience is a camp port-a-potty.  I have to say, lugging away a slogging container of poo and pee for disposal, after a weekend with friends at camp, isn 't high on my list of good times.  So I am hoping for a solution that is not so messy/gaggy/hands-on or heavy.  But if the "shtf" (ha!  it has a new meaning now!), I'd rather have any decent, somewhat convenient, sustainable solution over the alternative!

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Pinecarr, I will note that

Pinecarr,

I will note that the full bucket from a sawdust composting toilet isn't sloshing around when you empty it like a camp port-a-potty might be.  The sawdust absorbs the liquid preventing this.  It also really cuts down on the scent, though there can be a good waft when one actually dumps the bucket.  Basically the mess factor is much less than you might think.  It can, however, be rather heavy. 

Still I'm glad you started this discussion as I'm happy to entertain other options too.

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Another 5 gallon bucket user

Another 5 gallon bucket user here.  We use wood shavings and peat for covering it, no sloshing, and the only odor is when the kids forget to adequately apply cover material, and when i dump them into the compost heap.  We're on septic and well, so two good reasons not to use drinking water for pooping in.  I've found adults do not adapt well, but kids have no problem with the "bucket solution".

The "lack of browns" issue effects not just humanure toilets, but any composting program.  Right now, i'm looking at buying bales of straw, since our compost program has far more greens than browns, for inputs.  As far as using industrial waste, the world ain't going back to the stone ages, we will always have mills.  Unfortunately, we have no timber industry here, so I have to be more creative.  We have used dry grass clippings too, they work OK, but not as good as peat for covering odors.

Wood chips are essentially free if you build a relationship with a tree trimming crew/company, perhaps we'll experiment with that next.  Adapt, improvise, and overcome.

I too wish that there was something between ultra-simple and ultra-expensive...

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pyranablade
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Leaves as an alternative

Hi David,

I know that sawdust is good stuff, but couldn't other so-called "brown" materials be substituted for it?

For example, autumn leaves, straw or marsh hay...

Sawdust is the best, but if you consider that most people won't change until they have to...

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urine seperating toilet seat kit from ecovita - comments?

Great topic Pinecarr, and thanks to all the contributors.  I am still hoping for a solution between sloshy and pricey too.  I want the urine for fertilizer.  Friends of mine who garden extensively - grow almost everything they eat - use diluted urine to keep their large orchard going, as well as some other crops if they get low on nitrogen.  It seems too good to throw away. 

Has anyone had any experience with this seperating toilet seat, or made a bucket/toilet seat arrangement with a homemade urine seperater?

thanks

Susan

The Privy Kit 501 with Seat and Lid
A urine-diverter that makes constructing your own composting toilet—or improving an existing latrine—easy!

The Privy Kit 501 transforms your outdoor toilet into a urine-diverting toilet. The advantage: By keeping urine and solids separate, you are spared latrine odor, and waste is easier to manage.

Feces and other solids can flow to a latrine, vault, pail, barrel composter (such as a garbage can or 55-gallon barrel turned into a composter), manufactured composting toilet, or even a biodegradeable plastic garbage bag, while urine is routed via a hose to a soakaway, tank or composter.

The urine hose twists on and off the diverter.

The removable plastic seat and lid provide a fresh and formal appearance suitable for any bathroom.

Included: 3 sets of free downloadable plans for making composting toilets.

http://www.ecovita.net/privy501.html

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Urine-diverting toilet kit

Hey Susan, thanks for the info on the urine-diverting toilet kit.  Interesting!  I am also interested in whether anyone here has personal experience with a separating toilet like this.

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life dreaming
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more links to urine separating toilets

Hi Folks

Just finished an hours online research about compost toilets and urine separation and happy to share.

I watched a great you tube vid about a urine separation toilet in an urban environment and her site is full of excellent resources.

There's also another short vid on a system used by a restaurant in Mexico.

Here are the links [you'll notice I've added yours!]. I started a site a few years ago when I was thinking of building an offgrid home. Lots of links there and I'm updating them over the next few months - starting with toilets! I didn't build my home here in Ireland but plan to do it when I move back to Australia. I'll be popping the links onto the site as I go along.

Hope this is useful

 great vid of a compost toilet in a womans home - the poo and pee show
 

http://greywateraction.org/content/about-composting-toilets

 
http://greywateraction.org/sites/default/files/peter/Jul09/ecotoilet.pdf how to make a composting toilet - looks like an outdoors deal
 
http://clivusmultrum.com/products-services.php american business that provides compost toilets and greywater systems
 
http://greywateraction.org/projects/composting-toilets examples of composting toilets in urban environments
 
 compost toilet in a restaurant in Mexico
 
http://www.ecovita.net/products.html urine diverting suppliers. Look at the first vid at the top and see how easy it is to create your own system.
 
http://www.cityfarmer.org/comptoilet64.html - info on composting toilets and manufacturers
 
http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/79156/toilets-resilient-lifestyle a group conversation about what systems different people use
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Amanda Witman
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pinecarr wrote: You use

pinecarr wrote:

You use toilet paper?! cheeky

Great info, David and EGP, thanks for sharing your insights and experiences. 

The extent of my experience is a camp port-a-potty.  I have to say, lugging away a slogging container of poo and pee for disposal, after a weekend with friends at camp, isn 't high on my list of good times.  So I am hoping for a solution that is not so messy/gaggy/hands-on or heavy.  But if the "shtf" (ha!  it has a new meaning now!), I'd rather have any decent, somewhat convenient, sustainable solution over the alternative!

I have taken a 5-gallon bucket toilet camping with kids for nighttime use in the tent.  Bring enough sawdust for the length of time you'll need -- you might have to guess.  One year I didn't bring enough and we ended up adding any biodegradable absorbent material we could think of, including paper towels that we begged from a friend and didn't explain the reason for.  Learned my lesson that year.

Four kids and one adult, 12 days of camping, nighttime/morning use only, pee only, we should have had two buckets with us (and two buckets' worth of sawdust).

No slogging.  Please, no slogging!  Eeeeewwwwww.  ;-)

If the compost pile is managed right, I am told smells can be avoided.  I have various friends who use sawdust bucket systems year-round.  I am moving to a .10 acre town lot and not sure if I could get away with this, but if the SHTF I will certainly try.  And yes, I believe any chopped-up absorbent biodegradable material is fair game, not just sawdust.  I keep pine shavings (animal bedding) on hand for use in our bucket during power outages.

I think "Luggable Loo" might be what you were referring to.  They also make a cheaper cover-only version for those who have their own supply of 5-gallon buckets (which, incidentally, are getting harder to come by for free in our clever little town...)

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tictac1
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What is slogging?  I'm

What is slogging?  I'm assuming you mean the sloshing around in the bucket when you move it?

Materials I've tested and I know work-

-Pine chips.  Absorb lots of liquid (which eliminates slogging, if I'm correct in the definition)

-Peat.  Not by itself, but works excellent as an odor eliminator.

-Straw.  Needs to be chopped up, we used a bagging lawn mower.

-Dried up weeds.  Again, need to be somewhat fine.

Materials I've tested that don't work (or don't work well)-

-Peat by itself.  Uses way too much, very messy to empty because it turns into one big... you know.

-Leaves.  Fine in the toilet, but stop the hot composting process by blocking oxygen exchange.  Without heat, you're asking for trouble.

We compost year-round, the pile heats quickly except in the middle of winter.  Straw bales as compost bin work well to insulate and keep the heat up.  The pile WILL stink while you are emptying the buckets, but the smell magically disappears with about 6 inches of straw cover.

We use 4 buckets on rotation.  When one is full, it goes next the compost bin.  When 3 buckets are full, I add it as a layer in the compost pile, wash out the buckets and set them in the sun to dry/disinfect.

You MUST get your temps up into the 140-160 F range in order to kill possible pathogens.  My animals have never tested positive for any parasites, but it's still a best practice.  To "re-cook" a pile, I wait until I get a little over a yard of compost, then use the tractor to spread it out.  At this point it has no odor, and looks like potting soil.  I then add more straw, and cottonseed meal (for extra N).  Then I put the pile back into the strawbale bin.  Within a day or two, it's screaming hot (155 +) and stays hot for about a week.  After it cools to ambient, I move the pile into the aging area, and wait a few months before using.  Between the animals and the kids, we make about 2 yards per year.

I'd really like to build a seperating toilet though.  I've been using urine as a fertilizer all season, and works quite well on pretty much every high-N feeding plant, with no evidence of salt injury.  Plus, buckets full of pee and poo are heavy, I am the only one who can process them into the pile.  I'd estimate they weigh 25 lbs each or so, and you have to be able to dump them without gettin any on ya...:)

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Great additional info!

Great information, everyone; thanks for your contributions! Toilets, pee and poop aren't exactly glamorous subjects, but they are certainly ones that folks will be glad to have prepared for ahead of time, should the need arise!

Definition of "slogging", hmmm....  I guess "sloshing" is close, but with more qualifications, as in "carrying yucky human waste solids and liquids sloshing around in a stinky bucket".  Eeeew!!!!   

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Fireboat52
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The BoonJon system

Hello All, Hello Chris,

I have thoroughly enjoyed your interviews and your course on peak prosperity and I relate to it 100%. I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Sandy Graves and I am the designer and manufacturer of the C-Head composting toilet and the BoonJon system for managing organic waste at the residential level. I am a Prepper and an advocate of a permaculture lifestyle. My wife and I spent five years living aboard a sailboat after I retired from the fire department where I developed the C-Head. We have moved back ashore and my concerns about the future led me to develop the BoonJon system. I truly believe that it is the answer to managing your poo and pee at home. But you be the judge. If you are interested in seeing what I have done go here: http://www.c-head.com/BoonJon_system.html. I would be glad to answer any questions about the system and how it has worked for us. It is a work in progress, but much progress has already been made and I am very pleased with the outcome. I hope to be a positive addition to this discussion.

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FranzRosenburg
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This is a great read, I am

This is a great read, I am currently searching for environment friendly toilet design for my small farm. Not only that it saves money, it should be eco-friendly too. I have a friend who I consider an expert in septic pumping who is helping me get the information over the internet. 

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