From a previous post, I got a few questions, so I’ll explain. Yes, finally, most certainly, and not-disgustingly, we’re composting Humanure. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – Manure from Humans.
Are you finished gagging? Interested in learning? 😉
I’ll be honest, about 3 years ago when Sean bought this book The Humanure Handbook, I told him, “Nu HUH! No way! No how!” But now that I’ve read most of the research, and opened my mind, we’re doing it.
I leave most of the scientific stuff to Sean, but here’s what we do:
1) Eat food. Drink water.
2) My amazing body processes said food and water. Then I have to pee or poop.
3) Underneath the toilet seat pictured above in a five gallon bucket. We line the bottom of the bucket with untreated sawdust (we’re composting folks, don’t want those toxins!). I sit on the toilet seat. Do my business. Clean up, dropping toilet paper down the shoot as well.
4) I stand up and grab several cups of compost from the sawdust bucket/bag beside the toilet and add on top of my business. The trick to no smell or fly attraction is to cover the waste and paper fully with sawdust.
5) Close lid. And repeat steps until bucket is almost full.
6) When the bucket is full, I pull the bucket out from under the toilet seat, grab a full water jug, and carry both outside to our Humanure compost heap. Now this is unlike other kitchen scrap or grass compost (although you can add these things to Humanure compost). Humanure compost is walled in, to keep animals out. We all know why.We built ours with old pallets. Once this bin is filled to the brim, we’ll top ‘er off with more dry grass, then leave it to sit for 6 months+. This heap will get VERY hot during de-composition, killing off any human pathogens or bacteria that’s disease-spreading. The contents that remain will be like regular compost – able to spread around trees, spread over the topsoil and incorporated into garden beds. And don’t forget to keep watering that guy through dry periods. Dry piles don’t actually compost, but need moisture to work!
7) I dump the bucket of soon-to-be-compost onto the pile, then add enough dry grass to completely cover the pile. As soon as it’s covered, it does not smell. I know I didn’t cover well, when I can still smell anything. I’ve even tested this with my nose (ew?) over the pile to make sure I had enough. No joke. I couldn’t tell there was poop and pee underneath. LEGIT!
I’m a total skeptic who converted to composting our human waste. We started composting Humanure at our new house because it was easy, required no water (which we have to truck in and carry by hand into the house), and costs about $10 (for the sawdust) every 4-6 months, plus it recycles our waste. Oddly, this last one is my favorite part. Sometimes I find myself giggling when I don’t have to flush. There’s no good-for-drinking-water that’s getting washed away, gallons at a time with my contaminating poop. I can even compost the toilet paper rolls that get finished – those I would throw away, or have to make a special trip to recycle.
While many families all over developed countries – i.e. America – are converting to composting toilets, they also can be greatly valued among our Swazi neighbors. The few we showed the toilet to, were in awe. I mean, jaws-dropping, mouth hanging open. Saying things like, “This is better than a long drop” (like an outhouse), or “Wow. It doesn’t even smell.”
Now that you’re convinced this is a great idea, or just curious: Check out this book , or this article. (although I disagree with their last two paragraphs, including that you can’t add it to edibles, mostly because a long composting process kills all the bad guys!)
Like much of what we do at our new homestead, Sean and I strongly hold our ethics over the activity and ask, “Does this help fulfill Christ’s mission of bringing the Good News to the poor?” Hmm to the people who dig deep holes in the ground, buy cement to finish the tops, then poop over very smelly holes, and fill those holes with concrete and repeat the cycle around their property indefinitely. Could this be good news? To the people whose topsoil washes away with each rainy season, and whose scorching sun fries any organic matter living in the soil, could a way to add back to such land be good news? Could this be good news to all people, who were created to live in a garden, and care for Creation as a basic tenet of covenant with God?
I am poor in spirit, desperate for God who saves me. And there I sit, on the pot, giggling because I’m doing something to care for this ravaged, suffering Earth that God calls me to redeem. And shucks, I just thought I was doing my business in a bucket!