Reflections on Six Years of Relieving Oneself into a Bucket.
Original article: http://transitionculture.org/?p=219

8 Responses to “Reflections on Six Years of Relieving Oneself into a Bucket.”

  1. Jim Zack Says:
    February 16th, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Great article! So how does urine fit in the picture? I’ve heard of solar distillation units that will purify human urine to water, but was wondering about how a composting toilet deals with liquid human waste. After all, seldom, do I go #2 without some #1!

  2. Josh C. Says:
    February 16th, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    Rob,
    That’s fantastic. What a great idea and what a nice outcome. I look forward to making one of these toilets someday.

  3. Rob Says:
    February 16th, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    To reply to Jim’s urine question (how long till we hear Oprah say that?!). According to the humanure ‘philosophy’, urine is an essential ingredient in the compost process. It is estimated that human urine contains nitrogen roughly equivalent to the amount used in agriculture to grow our food. The humanure approach says put it in the heap with everything else, it is the vital ingredient to the hot compost needed to render human manure safe, it being a great ‘activator’.

    There is another school of thought,set out in Liquid Gold: The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plantsby Carol Steinfeld and Malcolm Wells, which argues that urine is such wonderful stuff on its own that you should separate it and use it on plants. This then would mean that you can only cold compost the poo, which means it will not be safe on food plants.

    So its a choice really, I guess there’s no reason why you couldn’t do both really. You keep a bit of pee on one side (stop me if I’m getting too graphic here…) by peeing into a plastic bottle or somesuch which you can mix 1-10 with water when you are watering your plants, and the rest of your doings go into the compost heap. That’s what I did, mostly humanure, but a bit of extra when required.

    Whatever suits, both are an infinite improvement on the flush…

  4. Andy Collins Says:
    February 16th, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    I too was inspired by Jenkin’s book and operated his method right here in English suburbia with a family of four! Not wanting to permanently replace our flush loo for this experiment, I built a compost toilet into a large cupboard in a bedroom. Not ideal, by any means, but we had no odour problems at all (… and this is not something I would have believed without first hand evidence!)

    We found the most effective and convenient cover material for the loo to be crumbled leaf mould (aged 2-3 years), but there are loads of different possibilities.

    I recommend both Jenkin’s book and the message board on his website. They contain the informative (and often hilarious) accounts of a growing band of humanure composting enthusiasts worldwide who offer advice on how best to make humanure in all kinds of situations (rural, suburban and even urban) and how they have overcome with varying degrees of success our extreme cultural prejudice in this area.

    The bottom line… (..sorry!)…it’s the simplest and cheapest method for composting human waste, and if you manage the system properly it won’t smell … and, of course, you get fantastic compost!

  5. Graham Strouts Says:
    February 17th, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    Yes I am also a long-standing (squatting?) humanure practitioner and I truly believ it is one of the most satisfying and easy things you will learn in Permaculture- it is actually much easier to get successful compost with this method than ordinary garden compost. The “bucket- and- chuck-it” method is simplicity itself and I always feel great on emptying the bucket and feeling I was doing my bit to build up soil. I produced approx. 80 litres of top notch compost from my poo system last year, although the humanure itself from an adult in one year will compost down to only about 1 cubic foot. I add in all my kitchen scraps, have a pile of rotting straw by the barrel to cover the stuff from the bucket with, and put in some weeds also through the year. I use large plastic barrels with screw-top lids that we get for 5 euros each from a local olive trader and I drill holes all the way around the top and bottom for ventilation.
    Another aspect of this whole topic is the idea that Earnet Becker wrote about in the 60s or 70s in his book “The Denial of Death” in which he argued that the psychology behind rampant consumerism and industrial growth is the fear and denial of our own bodily decay and the waste our bodies produce. We would rather flush it away and forget about it and keep watching the TV with its promise of eternal youth and beauty and buy the next flashy shiny chrome thing that makes us feel we can live forever.
    Making Humanure allows us to feel once again part of the natural cycle and can help bring peace and harmony to the soul.

  6. Nicholas Harvey Says:
    February 20th, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    This is brilliant and makes so much sense. Rob, you say that urine contains nitrogen equivalent to the amount used in agriculture to grow food. In Ireland there is currently a debate raging in the agriculture sector about the (over)use of nitrates on the land. This is such an obvious solution but who in the Department of Agriculture or the Irish Farmers’ Association would be radical enough to support it. I can just see the reaction to such a suggestion and its dismissal as lunacy. Yet in a few years’ time when nitrates and artificial fertilisers, so dependent on oil for production, transport etc., become scarce, it may be seen as the sensible option.

  7. Rob Says:
    February 20th, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Yes, I can see the headlines in the Irish Times about the Government ‘taking the piss’…

  8. E. G. Bryant Says:
    February 22nd, 2006 at 4:32 am

    We’ve been doing the “bucket thing” here for a few years…everyone loves it, even the neighbor kids. My conversations with the neighbor kids’ parents are always interesting.