top of page

Composting toilets, a new way to go!

“Grandpa, what is a flush toilet?”

“Oh, boy, it’s been so long. Come sit on my lap and I’ll see if I can explain it. During a short period in history people didn’t know that “humanure” was a useful product. Guess what they called it? They called it ‘waste.’They would sit on a bowl of drinking water and when they were done they would “flush” the water with the humanure down into big underground pipes. These pipes would sometimes go on for many kilometers but eventually the humanure mixed with the drinking water would be dumped in the ocean or river, or they would let it seep back in the ground. One “flush” would sometimes take as much water as we use in an entire day.”

“So grandpa, when did they start using the bucket toilet?”

“About a hundred years ago the bucket toilet first popped up. People living in the sticks would use it because they didn’t want to or, simply couldn’t afford flush toilets. People back then would pay as much as $15,000 for a waste system, or, as they called it, a septic system.”

“$15,000!! Grandpa, I just learned in school that that would be the same as $150,000 now. You could build a complete cob home for that!” The Water Crisis of 2016

“I know, it is unbelievable. Anyway, then, during the terrorist attacks, from 2003 until 2005, people used the bucket toilet as an emergency back-up. But it was only after the big water crisis of 2016 that bucket toilets and the composting of humanure became a requirement. Lots of bad stuff was going on then.

“Chemical fertilizers had completely depleted our soils. Commercially grown food was expensive and at that time more than 60% of the people needed medication to fight cancer cells. It was all of this that started the Great Garden Revolution. It is now hard to believe that back then only a few people grew food in their back yard.”

“What did they have in their back yards”?

“Mostly grass and some green and flowering plants that you couldn’t eat. It just makes me laugh to think about my father in those days. In the summer, he would use a fossil fuel powered machine to cut the grass really short and would then bring the clippings to a place called ‘a landfill.’Then he would use as much as 2000 liters of water a day to keep the grass green in the summer time by continuously sprinkling it.

“Grandpa, were bucket toilets the same back then as they are now?

“Very much so: A wooden box with a toilet seat on top and a bucket inside of it. That is what was so weird about it: It was so simple that people couldn’t think of it. In the beginning they would use large amounts of sawdust, straw or earth to soak up the urine and to make sure it wouldn’t smell in the house. (You see, in the very beginning they would actually pee in the bucket.)

“When the bucket was full they would empty it on the compost pile and would make sure that the pile would get hot, so no pathogens could survive. Now of course we use solar ovens and our good old earthworms to make the humanure safe and ready for the garden.”

“When they had flush toilets, how did they deal with the smell then?”

“They didn’t have to! Everything would fall into drinking water that effectively sealed off the smell. What we still don’t understand today is why they would put a fan in the ceiling above the toilet so that any smell would actually be sucked into the bathroom.”

“You mean they didn’t know about the down-draft fan?”

“No, my boy, the downdraft fan connected directly to the bucket toilet only became popular at around 2010. Putting the fan where the smell is was also one of those things that they just didn’t get in those days.”

“How about the nitrogen bowl?”

“Good question! They called it a ‘urine separator’. In those days it was just a funnel hanging in the wooden box right in front of the bucket. A plastic tube would then bring the urine to a small container. When the container was full they would fertilize the garden with it, just like we do now. They didn’t think of putting in a fancy warning light to let you know that the container was full, so, well, you know what would happen.”

“Have we always used water to clean our bottoms?”

“Ha ha, that’s another funny story. With their ‘flush toilets’ they would use a soft paper, called ‘toilet paper,’to clean their bottoms. They used water to clean off everything else, their house, cars, face and hands, but not their bottoms. The ‘toilet paper’ of course never got them really clean, which may explain the extravagant showering and bathing in those days. Who knows. The little tube coming in from the back of the toilet box, squirting water up to clean us became popular when wood and paper became very expensive. The last thing you would want to do with it was spreading out humanure all over your butt. Of course once people experienced how refreshing and clean water felt, they never wanted to go back to ‘toilet paper’ again.”

“How do you know all this, Grandpa?”

“Here, let me show you something special. Oh, it’s a little dusty. It’s the ‘Humanure Handbook’, written by a guy named Joseph Jenkins. It was first published in the 1990’s but you can still find it on the web A lot of the stuff we’ve talked about can be traced back to that book and that guy. But that’s enough questions. Go pee by the fruit trees tonight and then get ready for bed.

bottom of page