When contemplating living off-grid, a tiny home, or reducing your use of natural resources in your home, one of the biggest things to come up is what type of water system you will use. There are plenty of options to choose from, you could use a well, a gray water system, water directly from a stream or river, or the simplest kind, a rain catch. If you are choosing a rain catch system, however, the topic of water conservation is bound to come up, and a great place to save on water is your toilet. Instead of relying on a traditional water toilet more and more people are choosing compost toilet because it doesn’t use any water at all. A compost toilet uses natural materials, like wood chips, or lavender, it then breaks down your waste into a useful compost. There are many benefits to using a compost toilet including;
Simple To Install
Where a traditional toilet requires hooking up to the existing pipes or installing all new ones, a compost toilet is a self-contained unit that doesn’t need to be hooked to anything. While you can get composting toilets that are pretty elaborate and need to be installed in your house, most of them can be just put into a room and are immediately functional. In fact, a simple composting toilet can be made with nothing more than a five-gallon bucket and a toilet lid.
The great thing about most energy-free appliances is that they have cheap DIY alternatives. The five-gallon bucket version mentioned earlier cost only a few dollars to make, while a more advanced version will cost as much as a traditional toilet, yet you don’t have to pay for anyone to come in and install it. And, since it isn’t connected to a septic there is no need to hire someone to come and empty it.
One of the biggest draws to a compost toilet is that it doesn’t rely on water to operate. For people in drought-prone areas, they don’t have to worry about watching how much water they are using. This also makes them extremely portable, they can even be brought on camping trips.
Obviously, free compost is a benefit, I mean it’s right in the name. Your waste is converted into compost and can then be used to fertilize your gardens. It has the added benefit of being used as fuel for your home as well. When combined with other natural bio-combustibles in a methane generator, the odorless natural gas can be used for cooking or heating purposes.
Okay, this may not be a benefit that a traditional toilet is missing, but I know it’s the main concern you would have about switching to a composting toilet. Well, don’t worry compost toilets are completely odorless, even the five-gallon bucket version. Unlike an outhouse unpleasant smells aren’t a tradeoff you will have to make.
A compost toilet is a great alternative to a traditional water toilet. It can be used in any situation. Whether you are using it in your home or while camping it is easy to install and use without any prior plumbing experience. And, most importantly a compost toilet doesn’t use and non-renewable resources to function, making it environmentally friendly.
Images Courtesy: James Reid – https://www.permaculturenews.org/2014/07/21/building-basic-compost-toilet/
One other important part to mention re: odor and fertilizer: diverting the urine to a separate container will keep a composting toilet from going anaerobic and smelling bad. Urine is sterile generally and it also contains 70% of the nutrients in human “waste.” It can be diluted 4:1 to 10:1 and put directly on the ground around growing plants, especially trees.
I am in the planning stages of an environmentally friendly house. I am very interested in using composting toilets however, most articles such as this one stop short of providing details. I would love to see a review of various commercially available and home-made composting toilets with specifics about what each requires for operation and the handling of the compost (how long before it can be put into gardens, for example) when it is full. My fear is to end up with a great number of 5-gallon buckets lined up in my yard waiting for a year or two to be ready to use.