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Changing the Conversation on Composting Toilets

I was never thrilled about composting toilets when considering tiny houses. I didn’t like the idea of human waste sitting around and having to empty the bucket. It seemed like a hassle with opportunities for ickiness.

When people ask about the tiny house, this is always one of the first things they want to know: What about the bathroom? Somehow saying that we were going to have a bucket for a toilet, de-legitimized the entire house and our lifestyle.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind Composting Toilet System

And it’s not like I was a stranger to composting toilets. I attended an environmentally-focused college, which hosted composting toilets in a couple of its dorm apartments. My partner, Henry, was even in charge of managing the composting system. But that was different. That was a central system–one where all the waste dropped into the basement, where it stayed until it was nuetralized, and was the consistency and smell of earth. It was a system that was easy to manage and had the air of being “out of sight, out of mind.”toilet

But it is not a system fit for a tiny house–for obvious reasons. Space is not one of our strong points.

Low-Flush RV Toilets for Tiny Homes

So, as we researched our options, we looked into low-flush toilets first. This is what I was banking on. Some tiny houses have these, choosing to operate as RVs do. But like RVs, we’d also have to have a holding tank and find some place to dump it when it was full. Seeking out dump stations would be inconvenient and I’ve been camping enough times in the vicinity of RVs to know this is quite the smelly, unpleasant process.

Plus, it is dependent on our current system for human waste removal, which is wasteful at best.

What Happens When You Flush

When we flush the toilet, the contents are piped to a waste water treatment plant, where the water is strained, cleaned, chlorinated and then sent back into our rivers. And, according to the EPA, the “biosolids” (processed sludge) that are left are given to farms as fertilizer, buried in landfills or incinerated. In the end, flushing the toilet is just exporting the process of “dealing with it” to someone else, with the added benefit of adding new chemicals (and our medications) into our fresh water supply.

Incinerating Toilets for Tiny Houses?

We are looking to build a house that has a low environmental impact. What we do with our waste is an important part of that.

So, we researched incinerating toilets next, which some people like because they are waterless and don’t need as much attention as composting. But these were quickly crossed off our list. They are expensive, use too much energy to be powered by solar, and to top it off, they’ve been known to be smelly. There are models that run mostly from propane, but we didn’t like the idea adding more energy needs to our set-up.

Fancy Composting Toilets

Then we looked into the fancy composting toilets, the ones that supposedly work faster, with less smell. But again, the cost tripped us up.

DIY Composting Toilets

With so many Tiny House people happy and content with their simple (and cheap) bucket and sawdust approach, this started to seem like the best option for us. With an effective vent in the bathroom, a two-bin rotating system and a small door behind (so that it can be emptied from the outside), it seemed very do-able after all. (Check out this 101 on DYI composting toilets.)

It just took me a while to come around.

Final Thoughts on Composting Toilets and Tiny Houses

And I realized I have to reframe how I talk about the composting toilet, even try to be an advocate for the lifestyle. Most people don’t even know that they are contaminating thousands of gallons of water each year just by flushing. We have the opportunity to take responsibility and create a healthy, closed-loop environmentally sound system for managing our waste. It should be something to be proud of, not something that discounts the tiny house experience.

What system have you decided to use in your tiny house? What do you tell people about using your composting toilet?

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Cori is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. She is planning on simplifying her life and building a tiny house this Spring. Follow her journey at TheTinyDream.com!

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{ 49 comments… add one }

  • jim sadler March 16, 2013, 10:45 am

    It is rather sad that so few areas allow an outhouse. These days there are a few items that can make an outhouse a much nicer item. One is a set of rubber flaps well below the seat that prevent odors from traveling upward through the seat area. The other being a simple fan like the ones used to cool your PC that run from solar cells. The fans pump the fumes upward and out the exhaust pipe so to speak. That pumping action prevents strong odor build ups so that nothing noticed near the outhouse.

    • David and Heather March 16, 2013, 11:21 am

      Just an FYI: Check with your local environment dept not the municipality. They often allow outhouses and they have the last word. Ours even has plans available!

    • iti March 17, 2013, 6:10 pm

      In some locals, if you dont have running water (well, city) you are exempt from a septic and must install an outhouse instead.

  • David and Heather March 16, 2013, 10:46 am

    We have had 2 Sun-Mar units, one electric and one NE model for years. Both have worked flawlessly. The only caveat is that with the NE it probably would be good to install the optional 12v electric fan so there is still zero odor on atmospherically heavy days. These units are a bit bulky but they do the job.
    In our recently constructed tiny house we opted for a “Nature’s Head” unit:
    http://www.natureshead.net/ we have yet to use this but it looks fine and most reports are that it functions well. We shall see!

  • Jody March 16, 2013, 10:54 am

    I am moving to a tiny house (120sf) in May. I currently visit my tiny house on weekends and have a composting toilet there. I have a camping trailer as well and it has a marine toilet (a plastic toilet with a compartment in the bottom that you empty into the onsite tank) which I don’t like to use or empty. I prefer the bucket/toilet seat/peat moss method. There is absolutely no smell and only the occasional emptying into a dedicated compost bin which when full will compost for a year and then be used on flowers/trees. When people ask me what about plumbing when I tell them I am moving to my tiny house, I say there is none. I haul water and have a composting toilet. They either are curious and ask questions or are horrified and drop the subject! One of my friends refers to it as living like an animal….which when you think about it really isn’t a bad thing!

    • iti March 17, 2013, 6:15 pm

      LOL, good for you. I have been living this way for the last 15 years. Although i have a 1k gal cistern, I can fill. I only used the big cister the first year. From then on, i just used the one in the truck.

      The one and only thing i miss, is a garden. My truck is old and to make it last i only get water once a week or so. In my local, it would take too many trips to have even a small garden.

  • alice h March 16, 2013, 11:30 am

    I’ve used a DIY sawdust bucket toilet for 6 years now and though there are days when I’d rather not deal with it (sheer laziness, not anything to do with what it is) for the most part it’s just another routine chore. Guests vary in response but most are OK about it once you explain it. Being on a limited income it would have been a serious hardship to spend the amount of money needed for a “real” composting toilet so in a way this method is what made my tiny life possible. An outhouse wasn’t an option for various environmental reasons and a septic system is so far out of reach it’s not even a remote option at this point.

    • alice h March 16, 2013, 11:32 am

      Just have to say I have no control over the link in my post, it has nothing to do with what I said.

  • Shelly March 16, 2013, 11:58 am

    I use the simple bucket system found in the Humanure Handbook. I’ve been using it for 5+ years and as long as I use the correct cover material (fine) I have no smell at all. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As for explaining it to others, I tell them about it and there is a written sheet explaining the system hanging on a hook for them to read while using the toilet.

  • cheryl wade March 16, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Putting a composting toilet into my tiny house was an easy no brainer. My home on a lake was zoned for only a holding tank. No septic because we sit above lake level and no city sewer service here. At 200 bucks a pop to have the tank drained ever other month sometimes every month in the summer, we made some radical changes. Bath and dish water are
    diverted to a tank that irrigates out orchard and garden which kept them green and productive during
    last summer’s drought . Although pricey they paid for themselves and have never heard any complaints from any one and we have a LOT of visitors in the summer.
    When I decided to convert my 10×24 shed to a residence this was one of the easier problems to tackle if I would leave the place in the winter I don’t have to worry about tank freezing or water pipes bursting. The image in most people’s mind is one of a smelly fly attracting wooden box eith a toilet seat on it. Nothing is further from the truth.

  • kim March 16, 2013, 12:42 pm

    I’ve been using a Nature’s Head composting toilet in my RV/then Boat for a year and love it. I’m a total convert. It’s such a simple and clever system. I personally don’t even vent it, as it seemed to cause some odor when i did. There are a couple of other people around us that use the same toilet who do vent so think it’s probably something to do with usage, and where you are able to vent to. In any case i think a composting toilet is the perfect solution for a tiny house, rv or boat.

  • Mary March 16, 2013, 1:18 pm

    I will use composting, but I think I will answer the question with, “Yes, I have a bathroom.” They can read the instructions under the lid, if the occassion comes for a guest to actually use it, or I will instruct as necessary. No need to explain it to the casual observer, if you don’t have a good reason to tell them. If someone seriously wants to know, I will refer them to an expert.

  • Victoria March 16, 2013, 2:04 pm

    For those that use a bucket (which I intend to do in the tiny house I’m building), do you separate the urine? I’ve read where some do and some don’t and those that do, how do you dispose of the urine?

    • David and Heather March 16, 2013, 4:12 pm

      We have both the Sun Mar, which combines waste and evaporates the urine while composting the rest and a Nature’s Head, which separates. The pee pail I think is just fine to use in a non eating garden, at least around the edge as human urine discourages deer.

    • alice h March 17, 2013, 3:01 pm

      I don’t separate urine and haven’t had any problems with odour unless I’m away for a few weeks and leave a partial bucket behind. Even then it’s pretty minor and a handful of sawdust usually fixes the problem. I’m a heavy tea drinker too, so my system is well tested. I’ve been using compressed bags of pine animal bedding from the pet store for my sawdust. A $20 bag lasts several months with just me around.

  • Carl in SC March 16, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Since I’m planning to convert all or a portion of our 12×20 shed into a guest quarters a composting toilet may be ideal, so I appreciate the information. The building sits on the lower corner of our property and there’s no room for a drainfield, so this leaves few options. Composting seems to be the ideal solution. For now I have the bucket and seat with Doodie Bags for call of nature when working in there. I hadn’t thought of an outhouse since I’ve used some smelly ones in the past, but I’m sure that with lime or other odor control products it is feasible. But it is unlikely I’ll construct one.

  • Erik Markus March 16, 2013, 6:11 pm

    I moved into my Tiny house last July. I have a compost toilet with liquid separator.

    You can see how that works in the plumbing video I have up at Livinghouse47 on youtube.

    When solids and liquids mix, they smell even worse. (so don’t do that. That is where most of the ‘ick’ factor comes in). This is also a concept used in the Nature’s Head compost toilet. Very smart.

    For solids, I freeze it. Freezing kills MOST pathogens and bacteria, and suspends others. Those are the things that make solids dangerous.
    Also, it eliminates most all smell.

    In real time:
    I use a large (12″ diameter), 6″ deep cookie tin. I line it with a simple plastic shopping bag, add some absorbent material like scraps of paper, old paper towels, even shredded leaves to start.
    When the toilet is to be used, place the opened tin into the underside.

    I use my toilet like any other sit down toilet.
    I have the exhaust fan on while using. This is mounted, ideally, about 18″ off the floor right next to toilet area. I don’t smell anything. (I’m very picky about smell)

    With liquids gone down the drain, your left with the equivalence of cookie dough. Simply place absorbents on top. As others have said, when simply covered, smell ceases. Close the bag (squeezing out air), put the lid on the container, and put in freezer.
    A typical bag lasts about a week.

    When full, it is just a solid, block of non-smelly absorbents. The bag simply pulls out of tin. You can either throw away,
    OR add to compost, pathogens already dead.

    No mess, no smell, no chemicals (like that dangerous blue RV acid), no germs, no inconvenience.

    I feel so good knowing I’m NOT:
    contributing to ground water pollution using a septic system,
    polluting drinking water,
    requiring the use of petro chemicals,
    going to have to empty that (blankity blank gross) tank, SOMEWHERE?
    or am dependent on some huge energy sucking ‘treatment plant’ down stream.

    Not only that, if you compost correctly, you get rich, healthy dirt for gardening. There are several videos up that can show how to do that.

    The Humanure Handbook is an excellent read.

    As for the benefits of freezing things:
    You can freeze children’s stuffed toys to kill dust mites.
    When I used to have a vacuum that required a vac bag, when the vac wasn’t in use, I would remove the bag, put in a plastic shopping bag and freeze. This too, would kill any ‘bugs’ and when you use the bag next time, the exhaust would smell fresh and clean.
    Also, I’m a vegan and any produce ‘debri’, like banana peels, orange peels, apple cores, etc. goes into a container and goes into the freezer. Here it is mainly to kill the odor of decomposition and keep it from attracting flies. When full, it simply goes into a compost pile.

    I originally thought I would do the saw dust thing (with separator) but I realized the shredded leaves needed to be shredded, or Sawdust needed to be acquired. And it is dusty, and not something I wanted to do inside. Also, I wanted to make sure the pathogens were dead very soon, not 6 months from now.

    As for outhouses. That, like flush toilets, is old technology. Outdated.
    Yes, if it is done right…. yadda, yadda.
    It isn’t in the house, where convenient. You have to dig holes. It can still pollute the ground, it will attract flies, it will smell, especially if you don’t have a separator.
    Those were designed for a time when we didn’t have freezers, or even electricity.

    • Adam January 24, 2014, 9:57 am

      I really enjoyed your idea of freezing, and your video. Thank you. I disagree about using solar concentration because it’s not complex and it’s a regenerative form of supply that is passive. Doesn’t matter that we disagree on that. I followed up on the idea of freezing pathogens. In fact it turns out in nature whilst freezing slows the pathogens capability for direct contact infection, it also preserves the pathogens in most cases, so when they thaw out… back to ‘life’ they come.. I am grateful for your idea, because it gives a chance to use solid disposal for combustion within the engine of an RV using frozen solids with fuel injection… cheers.
      Here is the research.. kind regards
      http://www.crrel.usace.army.mil/library/technicalreports/TR02-16.pdf

  • Sandra March 16, 2013, 6:35 pm

    Dryflush dot com has a really unique simple toilet. About 15 uses and it tightly wraps it all up in a bundle safe for the landfill.

    • Teri March 16, 2013, 9:19 pm

      I just checked it out, like the style! Does anyone have one of these they can tell us about?

      • Sandra March 16, 2013, 9:45 pm

        I’ve seen the video. The breaking point would be the cost of the bags. I already put a RV/black water tank in my tiny cabin. Wish I had seen this first! If I build a second one would use this and then my waste grey water could be reused as garden water etc.
        but no have not seen it physically.

  • Teri March 16, 2013, 8:37 pm

    I’ve waited for this discussion for a long time… thanks, Cori! After selling my regular house, I’ll have enough $ to build my tiny house and install a commercial-type toilet system. I’d love to know anyone’s experiences/opinions of incinerating toilets vs. composting toilets. Also I’d love reviews of all the composting toilet companies (Envirolet, Sun-Mar, etc.) . Loveable Loos look very simple and affordable, but they’re a little rustic looking for me. Can I get your feedback of what you’re using and why you like it or don’t? Thanks!

    • Erik Markus March 16, 2013, 9:21 pm

      I know the incinerating toilets will run for an hour to an hour and a half after each use. That means it burns up its contents to roughly 1200 degrees. It also limits the number of times it can be used. It uses a bit of electric to do this, there is a fan that runs during this time, there may be smell, and then there is the heat it gives off.

      positives-it reduces debri to a fraction of the size, in the form of ash, and it is bio hazard free.

      negatives- It will give off an odor while heating up.
      It uses a considerable amount of energy, which, if you’re planning to be off grid, is a consideration.
      It has a fan that will run and make noise when it is cycling, which in a tight space, can be annoying.
      It requires a special paper cone (like a coffee filter) for each usage. Not a big expense, but it would be an ongoing concern.
      Serviceability ? I’ve heard stories.
      It gives off heat as they cycle. In the winter that might be nice, but uncontrolled heat can be uncomfortable especially in a small space.

      Nature’s head seems like a great product because of the built-in liquid diverter. It’s also a compact design and the components are modular.

      Whatever product you chose, make sure to have a liquids diverter or “urine diverter”. You can buy diverters on line if necessary that will fit even an existing toilet.
      Regardless of the style of composter, most problems occur because of too many liquids. The more liquids, the greater need for absorbent materials.

      Remember liquids are sterile and can be readily diluted and applied to plants as fertilizer or allowed to run directly on the ground.

      Like anything else, the most expensive is rarely the best solution. Often times, the simplest solution is the easiest and least expensive. Price does NOT equate quality.

      • Teri March 17, 2013, 4:57 pm

        Thank you, Erik… after your input I’ve finally flushed away the idea of the incinerating toilet and will now focus my attention on the other disposal of poop. This ranges from a bucket/sawdust/kitty litter/pineshavings toss-in-the-trash system to simple (Loveable Loo) or elaborate and expensive compost toilets with drawers, fans, grinders, rakes, vents, levers, handles & stepstools. I would love to see many of these models on display in some kind of home show somewhere. Anyone have any ideas? Personal experience reviews are still the best, thank you for all who are chiming in on this subject!

  • Teri March 16, 2013, 10:28 pm

    I’ve emailed the company for cost of unit & refill bags…no answer yet. Also I’m concerned about trashing the plastic refill cartridge. I’d cut it off to recycle if possible.

    • Teri March 16, 2013, 10:29 pm

      DryFlush, I mean…

      • Teri March 18, 2013, 1:55 pm

        I just got an email back from DryFlush:

        Hi Teri, Thank you for your inquiry.
        1. We are quickly establishing a network of dealers and you will find refills available at most marinas and RV centers in your area soon – but not yet in California.

        2. I am familiar with California’s recycling regulations. The dispenser ring easily pulls free and can be recycled.
        3. You can purchase the toilet and supplies directly from Dry Flush by calling (203) 248-4440. The toilet retail price is $420.00 plus shipping (about $30.00), and includes battery and charger, 2 refills (one installed.)
        4. Refills are $16.65 each and available in a 2 or 3-pack.

        5. We have a 90-day guarantee regarding defects. And although we have never had a unit returned for not meeting expectations, we strive to maintain the highest customer satisfaction and we would treat that on a case-by-case basis.
        Sincerely,
        Rod

  • sunshineandrain March 16, 2013, 11:53 pm

    I did have a Sun-Mar composting toilet bought for my Tiny House, but lost it in a wildfire last summer. I now have an e-z-Loo composting toilet waiting for construction of my Tiny House to be far enough along to install it.

    From this article and the great comments, I found the Separett urine-separating composting toilet. It is currently available for $1289 (probably plus shipping). This is less than $300 more than what I paid for the e-z-Loo (of course, plus shipping)! I like this design better than the mixed humanure Registered or Copyrighted (I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes; I just couldn’t think of a term for both #1 and #2 together). It would be great to fertilize my garden with the urine, nitrogen-rich!

    Just two more brands for your consideration.

  • Tarr March 17, 2013, 12:43 pm

    I started with an outhouse – but that was gross a d inconvenient. Then did the sawdust potty which meant handling human waste way too frequently.

    I considered a biolet or composting toilet but a little googling tells me that they don’t work well at all for most people.

    I am happy with my urine diverting toilet made bt Separrett. No smell. Liquids flow to a woodlot and the solids are collected. Every 4 months or so the solids are removed and composted.

  • Karin Copperwood March 18, 2013, 4:22 pm

    I recently did a similar article on my blog about how I am handling the Loo issue in my tiny home. I have taken it a step further to include using Family Cloth. It is interesting the options available, but I find the sawdust toilet with a separate tumble composter (I have a dual composter so two sides can be turned at once, but each side started on a separate date) to create safe and healthy “humanure.” While my options are not everyone’s first choice, I think my Tiny Home will be environmentally friendly and comfortable. Thank you for all the great information on your blog! I look forward to every new post!

  • bob henry March 19, 2013, 8:23 am

    I have read thru all of these comments and the numbers that stick are $1200 to $1500 dollar toilet options. I have heard urine is not for food crops and contridiction to that. I have heard too much urine throws off the delicate balance in a compost pile. I am in the early stage of development of a fresnel lense powered urine and grey water distilation/evaporation unit powered by the sun. My tiny house (build still in progress) is equipted with a standard rv style toilet to black water tank. However being male I am able to evacuate my bladder prior to a bowel movement so a urinal will be added to place a large potion of the urine into the gray water tank for distillation/evaporation.

    • Erik Markus March 19, 2013, 1:11 pm

      I don’t know what the $1200 to $1500 has to do with anything.
      If I spent a total of $30 on my compost toilet, which you can see in the plumbing video I have in the link above, I think that would be a bit much, actually. (I love NOT spending money.) Actually, I recently found another cookie tin at Goodwill, it was $2.99. The most expensive part was the push button water valve. I think it was about $8 maybe $14?

      The Fresnel lens idea, sounds pointlessly complicated. Remember, the simpler a system is, the easier to manage. If you did something like that, you would turn simple gray water into a condensed, toxic ash which then you would need to dispose of. While it was condensing, you would probably have smell, humidity, and you would be cheating yourself out of a water resource that could be used for gardening.

      Remember, bigger is rarely better.
      More complicated devices are merely ego pumpers, very dangerous(especially if your a baby boomer).
      And higher prices do not equate higher quality.
      It is true, the best things in life, are free.
      Clean air, clean water, a positive attitude, a morning glory in bloom, a hummingbird feeding, and the love and trust….. of a kitty cat.

  • Dave March 19, 2013, 2:23 pm

    I’ve been using the bucket system for about 7 years now and have found it to be simple, but it is all physical labor. You must have spare buckets and a supply of sawdust and cover material for your bins. After 7 years I know this is not what I want for my toilet for the rest of my life. Carrying a full bucket 100 plus feet to the compost bins in January when I’m 70 years old does not seem like a smart way to love. I’m interested in the Watson’s Wick.

    • Sandy Graves November 13, 2013, 8:16 pm

      Dave, you are right about it being a little work but there are many instances where a field of any kind is either not possible or desirable. From a permaculture standpoint, managing your waste in a way that recycles it can be rewarding in and of itself. The notion that you cannot find a good and productive use for your waste, including food production is entirely a Euro-American conceit.

  • Max Robust REviews May 2, 2013, 1:43 am

    Why people still use to read news papers when in this technological globe the whole thing is accessible on net?

  • Holly January 31, 2014, 2:03 am

    I’m interested in the sawdust toilet method, but I’m wondering how well it would do in Wisconsin, where the temperatures stay chilly (if not frigid) for half of the year. Thoughts?

  • Brian May 24, 2014, 7:10 pm

    What is wrong with RV toilets. Mine has electric flush and all goes into a holding tank that can be emptied into any sewer system. It uses a very small amount of chemical and never, never smells in any way. The chemical used is biodegradable and can be used where septic system is the only place to empty. Also the holding tank is removed from a trap door on the outside of the rig. Would love to read your comments….

    • Jim July 27, 2014, 2:06 am

      What if you used a RV toilet w/a holding tank and used two 4″ pipes attached to top of holding tank w/fans. 1 to pull in air over liquids and the other pulling out air?
      You would simply be evaporating your waste away!

  • Andrew May 25, 2014, 1:52 am

    I use a “NATURESHEAD” on my sailboat and love it. The smell of peatmoss is nice. I am thinking of putting one in my small cottage so I don’t have to do the expensive leechdfield upgade that is soon to be required.

  • Adam June 15, 2014, 8:09 pm

    Dear Envirolet

    Im a new user to your toilets. Wow makes me want to invent one that works.
    I have been using yours for 4 months – i have a basic envirolet running 12v fans only.
    The aerators – Really do you think they work? really – have you guys even tried using one of your toilets? – so today the back aerators broke off – i move the stuff around with a stick. Simple guys the aerators don’t work and you are fooling yourselves and all your users to think and say they do.
    -The second rake – what do you do when it is so stuck with hard debri that it doesn’t move?
    -The tray is so flimsy and really the product you get out to the tray is a disaster.
    I cant believe that your product exists and you spout how great it is

    Really people set one of your units up and have a couple employees use it daily – especially off the grid so only use 12v – chances are if you have full time 110volt you may not need a composter –

    get real figure it out or get out of the biz!

    Thanks you for your wonderful product – unbelievable

    btw – read this – these are your customers listen to them – i want to do a review on youtube and let people know the truth – http://www.poopreport.com/BMnewswire/991.html

    My neighbor has a Sunmar – with the step – i see that no step is a big feature for envirolet – no step – wow great. Also the envirolet needs a step ;)

    If anyone buys a envirolet, plan on getting a stick to spread the waste and after 5 months plan on opening the unit in half and removing the waste with a scraper or your hands in a glove.
    My plan after this thing fills up is to hinge the two halves and take out the mechanics of the toilet and replace all the insides with a container or 5 gal bucket.
    I will use the shell of the envirolet for its seat and fan.

    :)

    Adam

  • Sandy Graves June 16, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Adam,

    People have this preconceived notion that a composting toilet must look like a washing machine, be designed by scandinavians and cost a fortune to really work. Take a minute to check out the C-Head. I build them and I can tell you that simplicity is absolutely the answer. My toilets don’t stink and they are perfectly suited for tiny houses, tree houses or any other otg structure. They are easy to use and keep clean and require only a little work to maintain them. They are as environmently sensitive as the owner chooses to make them. I watch all these shows about building bunkers, tree houses, etc and they never discuss where or how they are going to take a dump. I would be glad to answer any questions that anyone might have about using compact composting toilets in general and the C-Head specifically.

    Sandy

  • Chuck December 21, 2014, 11:32 pm

    Here’s my problem…I am planning on building a tiny house that will be placed in a mobile home/rv park in a small community. I spent most of the last year there living in a small bigfoot trailer with a rv toilet sitting atop an 8 gallon holding tank connected to the sewage system. There is no where to dispose of “compost ” or water the trees. I watched a YouTube video on how to deal with a separator system and wasn’t impressed. Smell of the urine and uncleanliness of the toilet was a turnoff. Prior to that I worked on a small tourist ship that had composting toilets. The smell was atrocious. The “compost” didn’t compost and they finally installed direct overboard discharge. With my Bigfoot, I used what was supposed to be a bacterial additive that was supposed to digest solids and paper. I don’t know if it worked as planned, but it worked for me. I would fill and dump the 8 gallon tank about every four days then flush it wit approximately 5 gallons of city hook up water via flush valve. I would like to build with a flushing toilet with no holding tank, but don’t know how well the system would clear itself. There is very little information on lune about how to design such a basic system in regard to building on a trailer. Any help woul be greatly appreciated. If I lived in the woods, the sawdust/bucket would be great, or I would be content to deal with it just like a bear (and yes, I believe they do).

  • Ursus57 April 20, 2015, 10:59 am

    Septic system pump outs our area…200 bucks…our marginal
    system died with attendant backup and extreme aggravation. Found and a replacement septic system 5700 bucks…no way that money is available anytime soon…humanure sawdust bucket toilet solved our problem…the house system works well enough for urine…males to the path…wet shoes made fun of immediately…NOTE Grey water is piped to the hillside….
    .

  • Barbara Lamar May 31, 2015, 3:51 pm

    I’ve been using a bucket and sawdust toilet for almost 30 years. I got the idea from cat litter boxes. If litter the cats are conscientious about covering their scat, and if the litter box is changed regularaly, there is very little odor. But I didn’t want to use kitty litter in my toilet. I had an orchard and wanted to be able to compost the toilet’s contents. Kitty litter would not have been good for the soil. Since our house was in the woods, there were always plenty of partially decomposed leaves to use as the high-carbon cover material after each use of the toilet. It worked so well, I’ve continued to use sawdust toilets for all these years. I was thrilled to discover the Humanure book, which supported my theory that the finished compost would be pathogen-free. I no longer live full-time in the woods but have a weekend house where I still use a sawdust toilet. I now use pine or aspen shavings that are sold as bedding for animals. I put about a half inch of pine pellets in the bottom of the bucket. They are very absorbent and prevent liquid urine from sitting in the bottom of the bucket. I don’t notice any more odor than with a flush toilet, except for a brief time when I empty the buckets and before I cover up the emptied contents with weeds and other high-carbon compostable material. It definitely smells a whole lot better than a pit latrine or porta potty or sewage treatment plant. Once it’s covered, there is no odor at all. With all the nitrogen from the urine, composting takes place rapidly. with the correct amount of high-carbone material, decomposition it aerobic and does not smell bad. The Humanure book has figures showing that if the composting is done correctly, the temperature gets high enough to kill all pathogens, including worm eggs. Personally, I wouldn’t mind using the compost on my veggie garden, but some people are squeamish about it, so I only use the toilet compost on the orchard and for ornamentals. Roses love it! Each time I use the toilet, I think of how the byproducts of food metabolism will not go to waste or pollute the water but will, instead, nourish my fruit trees and rose bushes. Emptying the toilet is a pleasing task rather than a vile chore, because I know the toilet’s contents will turn into rich, fragrant compost.

  • Bill June 6, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Why not bag the waste from the bucket in biodegradable bags, then put them into a methane digester? You would get both liquid fertilizer and methane fuel as useful byproducts from the composting waste. Once processed long enough, the waste should be free of pathogens and easier to dispose of.

    If you feed the digester left over food and garden scraps, as well, it should generate more than enough methane to cook 3 meals a day on a gas cooktop. You could also fuel lanterns with the methane gas for lighting after dark without electricity. The larger the digester and the more you feed it, the more methane you can produce per day.

    Methane can be stored in innertubes, water pistons, or large bags. “Bricking” is a common method of providing the necessary pressure to force the gas from storage to the burner.

    Methane can be used to operate a gas cooktop/grill or other type burners, absorption refrigerators/freezers, non-electric hot water heaters, lanterns, generators—just about anything propane or natural gas can be used for. (Probably not realistic to produce enough methane to run a generator daily for electricity, but storing enough over time to operate a generator during infrequent times when solar PV is not generating enough or during power outages doesn’t seem out of the question)

    Methane digesters can be DIY built or bought ready to use. This is what has been successfully done in China’s rural areas for the last 30+ years. Waste processing, fertilizer production, and daily cooking/lighting fuel all done with one system. If they can do it with the limited resources and equipment available to them, we can do it, as well, considering our access to abundant building materials and equipment.

    Maybe look into methane digesters as a way to both process waste and reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing less energy from the utility company. At the end of the day, clean, sustainable self sufficiency technologies are going to be solutions to our biggest problems. There are so many technologies available to us right now (solar PV, methane digesters, wind turbines, clean burning stoves, thermoelectric generators) that it should be possible for many people to go off grid without sacrificing reasonable comfort levels and do so in clean, sustainable ways.

    Just one more option to consider.

  • Ann July 26, 2015, 9:30 pm

    Great comments but they don’t help me much as I still don’t know what system to buy.
    I have a cabana with shower and handbasin that’s used when people use my spa, the water from both runs into a small drain in the middle of the floor and out into the garden but now I need a toilet. The cabana is new and beautiful and I want my friends to think the toilet is as nice as the rest of it.
    Your stories of using buckets with leaves, paper, sawdust moss etc are not encouraging nor are those that tell of the terrible smell, flies, disposing of ash and dividing the urine from the solids and lastly a suggestion I should put the solids into my freezer! You must be kidding, I’m no Princess but for goodness sakes can’t any of you come up with a more appetizing idea? If I want to discourage my friends from ever visiting me again all I have to say is;
    “Be careful when you put the ice-cream in the freezer that you don’t disturb the bags of human waste”.

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